"Villanova is in the NCAA tournament," wrote ESPN's Dana O'Neill last night, after watching the Wildcats drop #5 Georgetown on their home-court.The veteran reporter from Philadelphia wasn't the only voice singing the praises of Jay Wright's scrappy giant-killers last night, but are they really safely in?
According to CBS's Jerry Palm, the 'Cats remain "on the bubble," this morning after the win. Though they have jumped up to a 10-seed, opening the West Region in Austin, Texas against VCU. Perhaps more importantly, however, they have moved up and out of the "Last Four In" section of the bracketology, meaning that they're less susceptible than La Salle, Tennessee, Kentucky and Iowa State, to be bumped out of the field of 68 if a surprise school takes a conference's automatic bid during championship week.
They also would be clear of the "First Four" round in Dayton, which consisted of four "play-in" games mid-week before the round-of-64.
The win over Georgetown was Villanova's fourth over a ranked team -- all at home -- and their third over a team ranked in the top-five. They are finished with their regular season at 19-12 overall and 10-8 in the Big East conference, despite some early struggles that cost them games against Columbia, Alabama, La Salle and Temple before the Big East season began.
They didn't shrink after some bad losses, they improved and got better during the season.
"You know what, I would think so," Wright said with surprising candor when asked if he thought Villanova was in. "... We've got 10 wins in this league and some of those wins are high-caliber wins. Even the losses, like Providence, that's supposed to be a bad loss, but they're going to win 10 games in this league so that's not a bad loss. I like where we are right now. I think we're in a good spot."
Villanova's blemished record matches that of most other bubble teams, who have both good wins and bad losses across the board.
CollegeBasketballTalk.com writes that the win last night, "all but punches" Villanova's ticket. The Wildcats might need to beat their opening-round opponent in the Big East tournament and they certainly can't afford a key injury that would cause them to lose a player like JayVaughn Pinkston, Darrun Hilliard or Ryan Arcidiacono. The committee looks at those injuries and would potentially bounce a team on the bubble that wouldn't be able to bring a key player to the tournament.
CBS's Jerry Palm isn't convinced it is a done deal for Nova, he told Adam Zagoria.
"No, not with the losses that they have," Palm told SNY.tv Thursday, pointing out that Villanova lost to Columbia (by 18) and Seton Hall. "You're not going to really feel that comfortable and almost all of their good wins are at home."
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"I mean Virginia's 4-2 [against Top 25] and they have seven bad losses," Palm said. "Look, this is a team that lost to Columbia. They've got bad losses and all those wins are at home."
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Palm believes Villanova can't have any bad losses next week in the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden.
"Until I see their conference tournament bracket, I don't know," he said. "I can tell you what they can't do, they can't take a bad loss."
Realistically, Villanova needed a 19th win before the Big East tournament to have a good chance of earning an NCAA bid. The chances of winning the Big East tournament to land the AQ just aren't very good for anyone in the league, even Villanova. The win against Georgetown, who were on an 11-game winning streak, was perhaps the best-possible 19th win.
Losing at Seton Hall was a disappointment, but if you could only beat one of the two, Georgetown did more for the 'Cats' resume.
What they really needed, however, was a 10th win in the Big East. History suggests that a team with 10 Big East wins usually gets an NCAA Tournament bid -- according to Philly.com's Bob Ventrone, 94% of those double-digit Big East-winners have made a tournament appearance. In the last 13 years, when the league moved to an 18 game schedule, exactly 18 teams finished 10-8 in the Big East. One (Syracuse) was ineligible for the postseason, five others won the Big East tournament. Of the remaining 12, nine schools received an at-large bid.
Villanova's 1994 NIT Champions were one of the schools that missed the AQ with a 10-8 Big East record.
The Bubble isn't terribly strong this season, so the Wildcats can likely still stand-out. They cannot let off the gas at Madison Square Garden, however, because while they have a seat right now, the tournament committee might not let them call "fives," if they take a break.