It wasn’t pretty, particularly in the final minutes, but No. 4 Villanova was able to pull out a 72-71 win in Newark on Wednesday night, knocking off Seton Hall en route to their 22nd consecutive Big East win.
The last time that Jay Wright’s club fell to a Big East opponent came on Jan. 19th, 2015, when they lost by 20 points at Georgetown. Since then, Villanova has won 19 straight conference regular games as well as the three wins they needed to bring home the Big East tournament title.
Villanova currently holds a two-game lead over the rest of the Big East field with 11 games left, and while it’s too early to actually write them in as the Big East regular season champs, does anyone really think they won’t win their third straight title? Providence isn’t the same team now that opponents know to dare them to shoots threes. Butler is already 2-4 in league play with a trip to Creighton coming up. Xavier lost by 31 at Villanova and just got worked over by a Georgetown team that lost to Radford and UNC Asheville. Georgetown lost to Radford and UNC Asheville!
I think there is an argument to be made that the Big East is the nation’s best conference — my personal vote belongs to the Big 12, but that’s another post for another day — and Villanova is about four wins from being able to throw this thing into cruise control. They’re currently the No. 1 team on KenPom and favored to win every game the rest of the season.
If they did win everyone of their games the rest of the season, do you think they’d finally find themselves in the discussion for No. 1? Would they finally get mentioned alongside North Carolina, Maryland, Oklahoma and Kansas as the best team in college basketball? I’m not saying this as some innocent bystander, either. I’m just as guilty as anyone on this. I said earlier this season I thought Villanova was the fourth-best team in the conference.
I doubted them.
I was wrong.
That said, Villanova has been knocked out of the NCAA tournament on the first weekend each of the last two years. They got embarrassed by Oklahoma on national television earlier this season. They have had a nasty habit the last couple of years of failing to show up when the nation was paying attention to them. Throw in the fact that their starting guards are both somewhat undersized and comparatively unathletic, their starting power forward is a chubby 6-foot-5 set-shooter that fires up threes and their star is a guy whose best skill is that he plays hard, and it makes sense.
So what is it going to take for us to truly consider the Wildcats as one of the nation’s elite?