Villanova enjoyed a week any college basketball team, ranked or otherwise, would love to have.
The Wildcats downed two Top 5 opponents in the span of five days, first upsetting Louisville before edging Syracuse in overtime on Saturday as an encore. That’s not a bad way to bid farewell to a pair of Big East turncoats bound for the ACC as realignment prepares to dissolve the distinguished hoops league once and for all.
Judging by the eye test, Villanova is far removed from being NCAA tournament caliber. Jay Wright’s team is devoid of a facilitating point guard—Ryan Arcidiacono is a trigger-happy gunner who can’t shoot and averages almost as many turnovers per game (3.1) as assists (3.3)—and soft in the middle. The Cats are turnover prone, a streaky (i.e., inconsistent) perimeter shooting bunch and don’t create many second-chance scoring opportunities. Above all, they’re young and inexperienced, starting two freshmen and a sophomore while turning to another pair of underclassmen as their top two reserves. Call them the Kittens for clarity.
These baby Cats are, however, growing up quickly, so much so that their résumé is worthy of inclusion in the bubble conversation. Villanova ranks 59th in the RPI as of the end of Friday night while playing the 39th-ranked strength of schedule. That’s not a bad start to a broadening portfolio, one that will only improve once the ratings account for Saturday’s win over Syracuse.
The Philadelphia school owns wins over Syracuse (RPI No. 9), Louisville (RPI No. 12) and Saint Joseph’s (RPI No. 103) at home, South Florida (RPI No. 80) and Vanderbilt (RPI No. 126) on the road, and Purdue (RPI No. 122) on a neutral floor. Only four other schools in the bubble bracket (teams with RPI ratings between 45 and 75) have as many wins over RPI Top 150 teams. Of the four, just two have notched at least half of those wins away from home.
The 13-7 record isn’t all that appealing. Neither is the unsightly 18-point loss at home against Columbia or the 22-point drubbing Alabama dealt Villanova at the 2K Sports Classic. The Wildcats still have room to grow and work to do.
But with a challenging and, more importantly, reputable Big East slate ahead, Wright’s group has the opportunity to accomplish a feat once thought implausible: compiling a résumé that even makes it to the Selection Committee’s table.