When Villanova made the decision to play in the 2017 Battle 4 Atlantis, they expected that the event would give them a shot at landing at least two quality wins, if not three.
Instead, the Wildcats will be leaving paradise with a title that came with victories over Western Kentucky, Tennessee and Northern Iowa, after Friday’s 64-50 triumph.
It’s hard to say that winning three games in three days in a resort’s ballroom on a tropical island is a bad thing, but this certainly was not a best-case scenario for Jay Wright’s club. Instead of playing – and, in theory, beating – No. 19 Purdue in the semifinals and No. 3 Arizona in the title games, upsets took those matchups out of play.
That means that Villanova brings themselves home a trophy and a couple more strands of net.
But that’s not exactly the reason that teams play in these events. The experience of playing a neutral site game after a crazy amount of travel on back-to-back nights certainly does good for the team as a whole, but that’s not quite as important as strengthening non-conference schedules and adding the kind of quality wins that could bump them up a seed line or two.
Think about it like this: The only two quality non-conference opponents that Villanova has left on their schedule are No. 17 Gonzaga, UConn and Temple. Maybe Tennessee will do them a favor and get good enough to be looked at as a quality win, and there’s always a chance that Northern Iowa will end up being one of the nation’s best mid-major programs, but this is still a major blow to Villanova’s non-conference profile.
So when Bracketology season starts and Villanova finds themselves getting mentioned as a No. 2 or No. 3 seed because they don’t have the kind of quality wins that other contenders for the top seed line do, remember this week.
Villanova may be good enough that it does not matter.
But it would be foolish to pretend like those upsets don’t have some kind of effect.