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Breaking down the tough and easy stretches of the Villanova schedule

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It will be key for a fast start in the Big East

NCAA Basketball Tournament - First Round - Mount St. Mary's v Villanova Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

With the Villanova schedule now released, the 2017-18 season has never looked closer. A younger group, only one on-campus game and a deep Big East should test Jay Wright’s crew perhaps more than any season since the conference reformed. As Wildcats fans start to make their predictions about how the season will unfold, we break down the easiest and most difficult parts of both the non-conference and conference schedule.

NON-CONFERENCE SCHEDULE

Easiest stretch

When: Nov. 10-17

Who: vs. Columbia (in Philadelphia), vs. Nicholls State (in Philadelphia), vs. Lafayette (in Allentown)

Unlike last season when Villanova was flung into a matchup at Purdue in the season’s second game, the Wildcats will get a chance to ease into their schedule. All three opponents shouldn’t provide much resistance considering the talent the Wildcats have.

Starting the season this way is important for two key reasons: 1) With so many players in new roles and some freshmen expected to make an impact (Omari Spellman and Jermaine Samuels), it allows the team to work out the kinks easily, and 2) it should get everyone familiar with playing away from campus. All in all, don’t expect many close ones to begin the year.

Toughest stretch

When: Nov. 22-24

Who: Western Kentucky, Tennessee/Purdue, and third game (possibly Arizona) in Battle 4 Atlantis

Just like the last time they were in Battle 4 Atlantis, Villanova is in a stacked field that features plenty of likely NCAA tournament teams. The first contest is a trap game, as Western Kentucky is loaded with young talent. Then comes Tennessee or Purdue — both well-coached teams from major conferences that should be fighting for an NCAA bid. Finally, if Villanova wins both games, it will likely play Arizona — maybe the best team in the country. The alternative is probably playing SMU, another NCAA tourney-caliber team, in that third game.

This is exactly the type of tournament you want a younger team to be in that is trying to establish an identity. It’s sink or swim and Villanova is all but guaranteed to play three high-level games. Our end-of-the-year expectations of the Wildcats will likely be dictated by how things go in the Bahamas.

CONFERENCE SCHEDULE

Easiest stretch

When: Dec. 27-Jan. 17

Who: at DePaul, at Butler, Marquette (in Philadelphia), Xavier (in Philadelphia), at St. John’s, at Georgetown

Quite honestly, there probably is never an “easy” stretch in the Big East, but this has the makings of a strong start to conference play for Villanova. The team’s first six games includes three winnable road games (DePaul, St. John’s, and Georgetown) as well home contests they should fare well in.

The Butler road game is tough, although Villanova will surely be extra motivated to avenge last season’s two losses, and while Xavier should be good, the Wildcats haven’t had much issue with them at home since the new conference started. The team could be looking at a 5-1 or 6-0 conference start.

Toughest stretch

When: Feb. 10-Feb. 28

Who: vs. Butler (in Philadelphia), at Providence, at Xavier, vs. DePaul (in Philadelphia), at Creighton, at Seton Hall

If the schedule starts in Villanova’s favor, then it shouldn’t be a surprise that the team is looking at a tough February. Aside from the home meeting with DePaul, there isn’t an easy one in this stretch. Providence, Xavier, and Seton Hall could all win the league so road contests there will be tough. Butler beat Villanova twice last year, including at home. Creighton is maybe the most difficult place to play in the conference.

Only a home game against Georgetown stands between this stretch and the Big East Tournament meaning it won’t be easy down the stretch for Villanova. However, after three early NCAA exits in four years, maybe a finish like this is exactly what the team needs.