I haven’t checked my Twitter mentions or the website comments in 12 hours. I guess it’s time to take my medicine.
Tough game. Road game against a top 5 team. Most teams don’t win those games, whether you’re number one or number 25. Biggest crowd in Xavier history– tough to overcome. Foul trouble for Kris Jenkins and Daniel Ochefu doesn’t help. Ryan Arcidiacono struggled. Xavier had freshman guard Edmond Sumner, who got a concussion three minutes into the game the first time these two teams played each other this season, which Villanova won by 31. Xavier shot 50% from the field. Sometimes you win games, sometimes you lose them. I don’t think this is indicative of some greater problem for Villanova because, again, Xavier is the fifth ranked team in the country (they’ll probably be number 2 next week). It happens.
But, there are some concerns.
Villanova has lost four games this year. There was Providence, a borderline top 25 team, at home, in overtime. Fine. The others were Xavier, Oklahoma and Virginia, currently the numbers three, four and five teams in the country. That’s a problem if you want a number one seed. When it comes time to slot teams for the NCAA tournament next month, Villanova is going to need a lot of help if it wants to be seeded ahead of any of them. What’s worse is that none of those games were particularly close– all were sound wins for the opponent. I mean, there’s something to be said for a team that only loses to top 5 teams (that’s better than most in the country), but it makes it very easy to slot Nova when you’re talking about the top line on the bracket, baby.
Every Nova loss looks the same: frustrating misses, foul trouble, dominated down low. Look at Xavier in the paint:
Villanova was 16-for-31 in the same area. Worse, while both teams shot 38% from behind the arc, Villanova jacked up 31 threes to Xavier’s 18. The Arch, who dominated in the first game against Xavier, couldn’t purchase a basket last night if he brought cash, credit cards, and his Apple Pay iPhone to the court. He was the foil in this typical Nova loss trope, which finds the Cats building a house brick by frustrating brick.
By my calculations – and please note that I was not a math major at Villanova – the Cats will need a near miracle run in the NCAA Tournament to win the national championship. One off shooting night and, again, they’re done. The good news is that this may be Jay’s deepest, most well-rounded team ever, so they should be able to survive a scare from any non-top 20 team. But, it’s no coincidence that the one time they did make the Final Four under Jay, they relied on a strong inside scoring presence from Dante Cunningham and Dwayne Anderson.
That said, perspective: Villanova will remain a top 7 team and still has a real shot at a one seed if they basically run the table and beat Xavier in the Big East Tournament.