March Madness is a long time away, but file away the name Villanova in the back of your mind right now.
Depending on the matchups, this is a college basketball team that has shown they can go a long way in the NCAA tournament. They have already beaten Kansas and Iowa, two teams that figure to do very well in power conferences, and on Sunday, added La Salle to their list of impressive victims to go 10-0 for the first time in eight years.
La Salle is another name that might jog your memory as a school that ruined a lot of March Madness pools a year ago with a Sweet 16 run. Villanova clinched at least a tie for the unofficial Philadelphia Big 5 title with a win over the Explorers, and added another pressure-packed win that would seal their mettle in the tournament.
A win at Temple on Feb. 1 would clinch the title outright, but that’s a long way away, and assuming the Owls win, out themselves in the Big 5. The Wildcats rule Philadelphia at least until then, having beaten Pennsylvania and St. Joseph’s by a combined 53 points last week. They do it largely with an emphasis on defense, limiting opponents to 35.2 percent shooting.
Beating La Salle was the Wildcats’ most impressive win against a fellow Philadelphia opponent in at least two years. Last year, La Salle snapped a 10-game losing streak to the Wildcats with a 77-74 overtime win and six of the Explorers’ top seven players returned from that team. The Explorers are no slouch, either, based on their three wins in four tries over ranked teams last year, two in the NCAA tournament
So, the improvement of the Villanova program is a tangible one based on more than the Kansas and Iowa wins and makes the Wildcats a team to remember when filling out that bracket.