Certain aspects have become familiar for this time of year. Many people can anticipate frigid cold weather in January and in the last few seasons, they can also anticipate Villanova on top of the Big East standings. The Wildcats are ranked number 6 in the AP poll and have the highest ranking in the nation in accordance with the RPI poll. While these achievements are noteworthy, the question can still be asked if Villanova is a legitimate threat to cut down the nets in Houston.
Since the advent of the new Big East in the fall of 2013 Villanova has been at the summit of the conference. Winning the regular season championship in 2014 and the regular season and Big East tournament championship in 2015 has allowed Villanova to prove themselves as the beast in the east. Unfortunately, Villanova has not made it past the first weekend in NCAA tournament play in the same two seasons. While the Wildcats could be equipped to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament this year, ‘Nova will not be the last team standing on April 5 this year.
There are three flaws with ‘Nova that can prevent them from being crowned champions. One issue with Villanova is how they play when they are away from the friendly confines of The Pavilion or Wells Fargo Center. As of this moment the highest quality road win was against a Butler team that is no longer nationally ranked. As the season progresses this victory over Butler might lose its luster because the Bulldogs only have beaten DePaul and St. John’s in conference, who are both at the bottom of the Big East.
A second issue that is challenging for the Wildcats is how they played against top ranked competition either on the road or in neutral sites. The toughest opponent faced this season as of now was against national player of the year candidate Buddy Hield and Oklahoma on Dec. 7th in Hawaii and the Sooners were able to pummel Villanova that day. Another loss came on the road in Charlottesville when the Virginia Cavaliers were able to upend Jay Wright’s squad by a score of 86-75. The matchup against Virginia exposed the weaknesses in Villanova’s defense as the Cavaliers shot 56.5% from the field.
There is also a blueprint to beat Villanova and that is to have the Wildcats attempt over 28 3 point attempts. In their loss against NC State in the 2015 NCAA tourney, along the losses against Oklahoma and Providence this season, they struggled mightily with poor three point shooting. Many basketball experts will say “live by the three, die by three” and Villanova is proof of that proverb.
Villanova is a great team on paper but they are not playing college football in the 1980’s. A national champion will be won on the court not via a ballot box. To bring the program's first national title since 1985, Villanova will have to play solid teams on neutral sites and come away with six victories. While Villanova has mastered Big East play the last two seasons, that feat, unfortunately, does not have the attributes to make the final hurdle that will allow them to be national champs.
Photo: Nati Harnik/Associated Press
-(1) Villanova defeats (3) Michigan in the National Championship