It was easy to write Villanova out of the NCAA tournament during non-conference play. Although the Wildcats had a solid overtime over Purdue, they also lost by 22 points to Alabama and 18 points to Columbia.
Entering this past week, Villanova was nowhere near the NCAA tournament bubble with an 11-7 record and unimpressive RPI and non-conference-SOS numbers.
Then the Wildcats knocked off No. 5 Louisville and No. 3 Syracuse in back-to-back home games. On Monday, it would not be surprising to see them receiving a few Top 25 votes or appearing in updated bracket projections. Right now, I have Villanova as a No. 12 seed in the First Four, although wins by La Salle (over VCU) or Iowa State (Kansas State) could bump them to the first four out.
The losses to Alabama and Columbia will continue to look bad on the Wildcats’ resume, but they will be marginalized if Jay Wright’s club continues to play well and win games. There is no question that the Villanova team that showed this week is much, much different than the guys who showed up in November and December.
Now, the lingering question is what else must Villanova do to secure a ticket to the Big Dance.
First, the Wildcats will have to win at least four of their remaining five home games. Their next three are against Providence, South Florida, and Rutgers, and those should be easy wins if they play like they did this past week. The last two, against Marquette and Georgetown, are much tougher but also winnable.
Villanova also plays six more games on the road before going to the Big East tournament in New York. The must-wins are at Seton Hall, but there are also a pair of Top-25 opponents in Notre Dame and Cincinnati. A win in just one of those games will be huge, as the Wildcats are yet to prove that they can beat a NCAA-tournament-type team away from home.