The reconfigured Big East conference is entering its fourth season. By now, the newness is starting to wear off, and the round robin format for the conference schedule has created instant familiarity between the old guard of the Big East and its newer members. As new rivalries have blossomed, where does three-time reigning regular season champion Villanova fit in? Here’s our attempt at ranking the Wildcats’ conference rivals from biggest rival to smallest rival.
A no-brainer here as the Villanova-Georgetown rivalry is one of the hallmarks of the old conference that survived in the new league. The 1985 title game will always bring a feeling of nostalgia when these two teams meet. That being said, these games have left a little to be desired in recent years. Villanova has won seven of the last eight meetings with six of those games being decided by 10+ points. And while Villanova has emerged as the new flag bearer for the conference, Georgetown has lagged behind.
2) Seton Hall
In terms of pure quality of the games, Seton Hall is Villanova’s biggest current rival. Two of the last three years, Seton Hall has knocked Villanova out of the Big East tournament, including last season’s epic final. The last two seasons have also included an overtime Seton Hall win and a 72-71 road win by the Wildcats. This matchup also benefits from being two members of the old Big East and that the Prudential Center is always rocking when these teams meet.
Over the first three seasons of the conference, the Musketeers have emerged as Villanova’s biggest challenger for the top spot. However, the games between the two schools haven’t been that great. Xavier is 1-6 vs. Villanova since joining the conference and most of those meetings have been fairly lopsided. However, these two teams figure to be the toast of the conference in 2016-17, which should help further blossom the rivalry.
Since the Big East reconfigured some of Villanova’s best games have been against Providence. There was a double-overtime road win in 2014, an overtime home loss this past season, and two thrilling Big East tournament games the last two seasons. These matchups have also featured some of the league’s top talent (Kris Dunn, Ben Bentil, Josh Hart, Ryan Arcidiacono, etc.), which has added to the excitement around them.
5) St. John’s
This ranking is based more on history than anything else, as a matchup with St. John’s (especially those that include a trip to Madison Square Garden) bring back memories of the old conference. Obviously St. John’s has fallen on tough times the last three seasons, but the Red Storm have hung tough in a few contests with Villanova and appear to be on the rise.
Since Marquette joined the conference in 2005, these two teams have played some terrific games. For a few years they met regularly around New Year’s Day, and there was Dwyane Anderson’s game-winner in the Big East tournament in 2009. Like everyone else, the Golden Eagles have struggled against Villanova since the new league formed and haven’t beaten the Wildcats since 2012.
This ranking is based purely on what took place during the 2013-14 season when Creighton blew the doors off Villanova in two regular season games. Villanova has not lost to Creighton since then, but there is definitely still some animosity from Wildcats fans towards the Bluejays because of how those games went down. Also, even though Creighton is 0-4 since, they still have the second most wins against Villanova since coming to the Big East.
This was a tricky ranking as Butler is 0-6 vs. Villanova since joining the conference, but these two schools have played some great games during that stretch, including a New Year’s Eve overtime thriller to kick of the new league in 2013. Still, a rivalry cannot blossom if only one of those teams wins.
One-sided games and a terrible road environment have made the DePaul games as dull as a conference game can be for Villanova. DePaul has been a league doormat since coming to the Big East in 2005, and Villanova has had some of their better offensive nights against the Blue Demons. Perhaps a 2017-18 move to a new downtown Chicago arena will add some life to this rivalry and the program as a whole.