Villanova entered the Big East Tournament as the No. 3 team in the nation with a chance to earn a top seed in next week’s NCAA Tournament. Little did they know they would be packing their bags after their first game of the Big East Tournament and have to wait for the selection committee to decide their fate.
Seton Hall stunned Villanova, handing them their fourth loss of the season and will advance to the Big East semifinal tomorrow afternoon. Villanova could not make a shot and it came back to haunt them.
Villanova looked to be a lock for a No. 1 seed in the big dance if they performed well in the Big East Tournament. They likely needed to win their first game and at least play well in their quarterfinal. The NCAA selection committee will now be much more critical of Villanova as they were unable to perform in a big game in tournament format.
The No. 1 seed is extremely important. No No. 1 seed has ever lost in the first round, a No. 1 seed has won the tournament 52 percent of the time since 1985 and at least one No. 1 seed has advanced to the Final Four all but three times. Last season, Big East rival Georgetown was a No. 2 seed and lost in the first round to Florida Gulf Coast.
Villanova really struggled shooting this afternoon and will need to build confidence without playing a game until the tournament. They were a brutal 21.1 percent from three and leading scorer James Bell did not make a field goal in the game.
The good news for the Wildcats is they proved they could battle back in a game even when they are not at their best. JayVaughn Pinkston, who shot 77 percent from the free throw line during the regular season, was 3-for-10 from the line today. The question is, can they handle the pressure?
This Villanova team is young and inexperienced in postseason play. Coach Jay Wright is one of the best in the business, but he will have his hands full getting his team refocused for next week. Following each of their previous three losses this season, Villanova has rebounded and won their next game, but each of them required overtime.
They are one of the deepest teams in the country, and that showed this afternoon as their top three or even four players struggled yet they almost pulled off the win. Josh Hart came off the bench and provided 18 points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes of work.
Wright and his team have experienced very little adversity this season, winning all but three games and losing no players to injury. They are a deep group and could still make a run, but they will need to regroup quickly. Hopefully this will just be a bump in the road, not a dead-end.