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Villanova Basketball Quad Goals: Now Comes The Hard Part

The next seven games will make or break Villanova’s Big East Title hopes.

It’s time for another installment of Villanova’s Quad Goals, an ongoing series in which we track the Wildcats’ NCAA Tournament resume. If you’re looking for more information on the NET and the rest of the ranking methods for the tournament, check out Rankings 101.

The Villanova Wildcats have been racking up the wins. They’ve won ten of their last twelve games, including a 4-1 start to Big East play that has them just one spot out of first place. Their latest win came against (for now) non-con opponent UConn, with one final non-con game with Temple coming in a little less than four weeks. Sandwiched in between are seven games that will tell us just how ready Nova is for a run in March.

Let’s first run down what this stretch looks like for the Wildcats:

  • vs Butler (The Finn)
  • at Providence
  • at St. John’s
  • vs Creighton (Wells Fargo)
  • at Butler
  • vs Seton Hall (Wells Fargo)
  • vs Marquette (The Finn)

It’s by far the toughest stretch Villanova will face in the regular season, especially the last four games in that run. It represents four (possibly seven) Quad 1 opportunities, and requires the Wildcats to defend their home court against three ranked teams (as of writing this before the new polls came out, sorry Creighton). So today I thought we’d take a quick look at these teams, their NET implications, and make some predictions along the way.

Butler Bulldogs

NET: 7th (Home: Quad 1, Away: Quad 1) | KenPom: 11th (Home: Nova -1, Away: Butler -6)

Butler is the lone team that Villanova will face twice in this stretch, getting the Bulldogs at home to kick things off tomorrow. Despite losing two straight (vs Seton Hall and at DePaul), the Bulldogs are still the computer metric darlings of the Big East. Their strength comes from their ability to simply shut teams down from the floor, sporting the 13th best defensive efficiency in the country. They’re especially good at guarding on the perimeter, holding opponents to 27.9% on the season.

Beating Butler, at home or away, remains the two best wins Villanova could pick up on their schedule. By the end of the season, Seton Hall (the only team unbeaten in Big East play) could overtake them, but for now it’s still the Bulldogs. Protecting home is huge for the Wildcats, and playing this game in the Finn is a huge boon fore the Wildcats. Since losing back-to-back games in 2018, Villanova is 12-0 at the Finn. Included in that undefeated streak is a 2-0 record against ranked teams. Splitting the home and home would keep Nova on track for a Top 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Providence Friars

NET: 79th (Away: Quad 2) | KenPom: 74th (Away: Nova -1)

The Friars have been a little hard to figure out this season. They started off simply awful, going 6-6 in their first twelve games. Then they blew out Texas and went 3-0 to start Big East play. And now they’ve lost two of their last three. Talk about a roller coaster season that’s rocketing toward mediocrity and a second straight season of missing the NCAA Tournament.

All of that said, this could end up being a Quad 1 win by the end of the season. The Big East still gets a lot of “NET cred”, and Providence is no exception despite the 11-8 record. If they finish the season 75th or better in the NET (currently 79th), then this is a Quad 1 opportunity for Nova. It’s always tough to win on the road, but in a season where the Big East is much improved the team will need to capitalize on any Quad 1 opportunities against teams outside the NET Top 50.

St. John’s Red Storm

NET: 76th (Away: Quad 2) | KenPom: 77th (Away: Nova -1)

St. John’s hasn’t been great, and they’re just 1-5 to start Big East play. But don’t let that fool you into thinking this is an easy road win for the Wildcats. The Johnnies played Butler and Seton Hall to one possession games at home, losing both games by a total of 5 points combined. They’re running out of opportunities for resume building wins at home, so expect Nova to have a big fat bullseye on their backs when they travel to MSG.

Like Providence, this game could easily be another Quad 1 opportunity for the Wildcats. If Villanova can win twice on the road and have those games turn into Quad 1 wins, that’ll be huge for their chances of claiming a top seed regardless of if they win the Big East.

Creighton Bluejays

NET: 33rd (Home: Quad 2) | KenPom: 38th (Home: Nova -4)

The first of two opponents that Villanova has already faced before this stretch, Creighton comes to the Main Line looking for revenge. Despite being down for most of the previous game, Villanova executed their defensive game plan perfectly to earn a comeback victory on the road. Now they go for a regular season sweep that should look really good in March.

Once again, here’s another game that could become a Quad 1 opportunity as the NET shifts through the rest of the season. For those keeping track, we’re up to three Q2 games that could become Q1. Odds are that at least one if not more of them make that switch, so it’s important for the Wildcats to win as many of these as they can.

Seton Hall Pirates

NET: 12th (Home: Quad 1) | KenPom: 10th (Home: Nova -1)

Seton Hall sits atop the conference right now with a flawless 6-0 record to start Big East play. And those aren’t easy wins either, as they’ve won at Butler and vs Marquette. Oh, and all of this has happened without their second leading scorer in 6’11” big man Sandro Mamukelashvili. He’s been out since early December with a fractured wrist, but he could be back just in time to play against the Wildcats. How fun.

If you’re noticing a trend here, you’re not alone. Of the six games we’ve looked at so far, Nova’s been a one point favorite per in four out of six. Villanova has had Seton Hall’s number at the Wells Fargo Center for a while now, but you can be sure Myles Powell will want a win in that building at least once before he graduates. If the Wildcats hope to win another Big East Title, they need to win at home against the Pirates.

Marquette Golden Eagles

NET: 30th (Home: Quad 1) | KenPom: 32nd (Home: Nova -4)

Marquette is the only team to beat Villanova in the Big East so far this season. It was a pretty ugly game on Nova’s part, but that’s what can happen against good teams on the road. Nova has certainly made some strides since then, and they’ll be looking to defend home court to prevent the regular season sweep.

This is the lone opportunity in the stretch that currently sits in Quad 1 and could fall to Quad 2. If I had to guess, this will end up being a Quad 2 opportunity as Marquette is probably a little overrated. Still it’s an important game to pick up for seeding purposes, especially at home.

If I had to guess, I’m calling a 5-2 record through that stretch. The offense hasn’t looked stellar, but the defense is really hitting its stride. When the shots start falling again, this team is going to show why people should expect to see this team in the Sweet 16 if not further.

And now, onto the resume!

Villanova’s Tournament Resume

Since our last update, Villanova has picked up five wins (Xavier, Creighton, Georgetown, DePaul, UConn). At Creighton is a locked in Quad 1 win, while DePaul, Georgetown, and Xavier are Quad 2. And sad, sad UConn is Quad 3. Here’s the rest of Villanova’s tournament resume.

Here are some additional thoughts on Villanova’s NCAA Tournament resume:

  • Scratch what I said last time around, Mississippi State is trending up and now sits just seven spots in the NET from being a Q1 win for Villanova. I still think it’s unlikely they end up in the NET Top 50, but it’s at least a possibility now.
  • Heading in the other direction, Xavier is on the verge of dropping from Q2 to Q3. Further down the ladder, La Salle and Penn have both dropped to Q4 wins. Outside of Temple, the Big 5 isn’t doing much for Nova this season.
  • While Villanova has been winning, they’ve still got a losing record in Quad 1 games. At 2-3, there are 23 other teams with more Q1 wins than Villanova. Kansas has the most with 7 Q1 victories.
  • Eight of Villanova’s fourteen remaining games are on the road. That’s a tall task for such a young team, but it’s also a good “trial by fire” way to prepare for March.