Villanova a Viable NCAA Title Contender

Villanova a Viable NCAA Title Contender Despite Big East Challenges, Villanova a Viable NCAA Title Contender

Villanova hasn’t enjoyed the same smooth sailing of last year in the Big East, but the Wildcats nevertheless remain a contender for a national basketball championship.

The Wildcats may not win the Big East championship, but there are several reasons for that – the biggest is that the conference itself is much deeper.

As the week began, Villanova trailed Xavier in the Big East Standings by a game with two to play.

Villanova (12-4 Big East) has beaten Xavier twice so if they end up tied, the Wildcats would earn the No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament.

The final two Villanova regular season games are at Seton Hall (9-7) and home against Georgetown (5-11).

Xavier (13-3) hosts Providence (9-7) and then visits DePaul (4-12).

Whether Villanova is the No. 1 seed or No. 2 seed, winning the Big East Tournament won’t be easy. Even if the Wildcats don’t win the Big East Tournament, they should still be a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, maybe No. 3 at the worst.

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This will be the sixth straight year that Villanova is in the NCAA Tournament and 13th in the last 14 years.

The Wildcats will be helped by what is an improved Big East Conference this year.

ESPN’s expert bracketologist Joe Lunardi projects six Big East teams in the tournament.

Lunardi has Villanova and Xavier as top seeds. In addition, he has Creighton, Providence, Butler and Seton Hall in the tournament.

One thing that will help Villanova is that the Wildcats seem to have more depth this season, especially with the recent return of Phil Booth, who had been sidelined about a month with a broken bone in his right hand.

When the Wildcats won the NCAA title in 2016, Booth was the star of the 77-74 title win over North Carolina with 20 points off the bench.

He was limited to three games last year due to a left knee injury.

Booth makes a major difference in the Villanova lineup and will use the end of the regular season and the Big East Tournament to get back into true basketball shape.

The Wildcats have veteran leaders and that matters greatly in the NCAA Tournament. Junior point guard Jalen Brunson is considered a national player of the year candidate and redshirt junior Mikal Bridges is considered a potential NBA Lottery pick.

Brunson entered the week averaging 19.3 points and 4.9 assists while Bridges was averaging 17.2 points, 5.3 rebounds while also being considered a lock-down defender.

So this is a little different than last year when Villanova easily clinched the Big East regular season title and then won the conference tournament.

The competition, as stated, is better in the Big East, but Villanova still has the type of veteran team that is expected to have an extended stay in March.

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Author: Marc Narducci


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