NCAA tourney: How much did Seton Hall loss hurt Villanova?

NCAA tourney: How much did Seton Hall loss hurt Villanova?
February 26, 2013, 11:00 am
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Editor's Note: As Selection Sunday approaches, Dave Jones will check in with those members of the City 6 whose NCAA tournament resumes have them either in the tournament or on the bubble. Click here for his La Salle Explorers check up and here to catch up on the Temple Owls. You can read Jones' selection committee guide here.

Villanova Wildcats (18-11, 9-7)

Current outlook: High anxiety
RPI rank: 54
Non-con SOS rank*: 148

Important results
Pretty wins (vs <51-RPI):
Louisville (8) 73-64
Syracuse (12) 75-71 (ot)
Marquette (14) 60-56
@Connecticut (29) 70-61

Ugly losses (vs >99-RPI):
Columbia (259) 57-75
@Seton Hall (115) 65-66

Resume plus: Major scalps in Big East play including a good one on the road.
Resume minus: A real stinker early to Columbia but also a notably weak non-conference schedule in which the Wildcats got very little done.

Remainder of schedule:
Sun. – @Pittsburgh (37)
Mar. 6 – Georgetown (13)

What Monday's loss at Seton Hall (115) means:
As much as Nova fans want to slit their wrists over Monday night's excruciating 66-65 giveaway at smelly Seton Hall, it's not fatal. Funny things happen on the road to everyone. And the fact is, if the Wildcats can rebound in either of their final two regular-season games, they will have yet another top-50 win to stack on a list that would be five deep.

That's not to say Villanova doesn't have a problem, one that's often sticky for bubble-sitters and one the Wildcats would still have regardless of the Seton Hall result – their sole dependency on a league schedule to impress the selection committee. The young Cats played ragged ball in their non-con portion and accumulated zero meaningful wins.

That's usually troublesome for committees; they want to see at least something outside the league no matter how good a conference a candidate plays in. Nova fans may protest: Hey, if we split the final two games, we'll be two games over .500 in the Big East! That always gets you in.

Yeah, well, not always. It doesn't when you take November and December off. When elite-conference teams with league records over .500 have been denied, that's almost always been the reason.

Two recent examples to wit:
Penn State was snubbed in 2009 with a 10-8 record in a very good Big Ten, six top-50 wins and four in the top 22. Why? The Nittany Lions had nothing to show out of conference. They didn't even have a bad loss as Nova does (home vs. Columbia), just nothing of the positive.

Syracuse was denied in 2007 with a 10-6(!) Big East record, despite three top-25 wins. Why? The Orange accomplished nothing in the non-league. Again, there were no ugly losses, just nothing good to show. It's also worth noting that both the '09 Nits and '07 Orange had better overall winning percentages than this year's Wildcats will.

What the near future holds:
Still, with Saturday evening's gritty win over Marquette at the Pavilion, the top end of the Wildcats' resume is good enough that it could conceivably overshadow that flabby middle. It's safe to say work remains to be done. And more opportunity awaits. A road trip to Pitt and a season finale with Georgetown could add more fiber. The Cats need it.

*RPI courtesy of CBSSports.com's Jerry Palm.
**The non-conference strength of schedule rank is a figure available to the selection committee to gauge how rigorous a schedule each team attempted to play outside its mandated league slate.


David Jones is columnist for PA Media Group and The Harrisburg Patriot-News. Read his stories at PennLive.com.

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