Villanova knocked off No. 22 Marquette on Saturday, their third marquee win of the season — they beat Syracuse and Louisville in back-t0-back games earlier this season — and one that seemingly put them onto the right side of the bubble.
So long as they could avoid slipping up against Seton Hall, a team that hadn’t won a game in 33 days, on Monday night.
And, well, it turns out that may have been too much to ask:
The Wildcats ended up losing to the Pirates 66-65 thanks to that last second three-pointer from Fuquan Edwin, and while it’s far from a devastating blow to their tournament hopes — as of this morning, Dave Ommen still had the Wildcats in our latest bracket — it puts Villanova into a tough situation.
For starters, their last two games are at Pitt and at home against Georgetown. Those won’t be easy games, and a loss will result in Villanova finishing out the season at 9-9 in the Big East and 18-13 overall. That would likely put them into 8-9 game or the 7-10 game in the Big East tournament with someone like Cincinnati or St. John’s. If they can win their first round game, they’ll advance to take on one of the top two seeds in the Big East in must-win game for their tournament hopes.
With losses to Columbia, Alabama, Seton Hall and a sweep at the hands of Providence, Villanova has one of the strangest resumes in the country. It’s tough to imagine, but in a year where St. Mary’s may be able to sneak into the Big Dance with their best win being against a Creighton team that has fallen off the map, Villanova could end up being left out of the tournament despite beating three of the top four teams in the Big East.
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.