It’s a subjective game of projection at this point.
Who gets in? Who doesn’t?
What about seeding?
Of course, most important, who can win it all?
That’s where Villanova comes in at this point, especially for sports fan in the Philly area, with the 24-3 Wildcats currently holding top billing in the nation as the 2015-16 college basketball regular season winds down and teams from conferences far and wide, and big and small, vie for spots in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. You have to wonder, can they?
Beyond that, will they?
The reality is, the “can” and “will” of this process are not forever intertwined. Yeah, you certainly have to have the former in order to have the latter. But it ain’t a given that having the former would result in the latter.
Point being, ’Nova certainly has the goods to get it done. Fueled by talent galore, including a starting five that all average in double figures, and battle-tested by playing in one of the country’s best basketball conference, the Big East, the Wildcats are poised to make a title run.
But, really, how many times has that not been the case for them during Jay Wright’s tenure?
After rescuing the program from the fair-to-middling status to which it had sunk under Steve Lappas, Wright began pumping life and blue-chip recruits into Villanova immediately, prepping it for a return to prime-time performance by 2004-05, his fourth season in charge on the Main Line.
Starting then and continuing through the time this tournament is announced, the ’Cats will have been dancing 10 of the last 11 years, and one of the NCAA’s featured performers in more than half of ’em.
The first five of those years, they rattled off two Sweet 16s, an Elite Eight and a Final Four. The next five? They missed the tournament once, and got bounced from it four other times on the first weekend despite having squads in 2009-10 and last year to contend for it all.
Frankly, the subjective take here is that these ’Cats are better, much better, than the Scottie Reynolds-led 2008-09 group that reached the national semis only to get embarrassed by North Carolina, and, conversely, not as good as any of the four groups, headlined at one point or another by Randy Foye, Kyle Lowry, Allan Ray and Curtis Sumpter, previous to that one.
With the addition of ballyhooed freshman Jalen Brunson, who almost single-handedly shot down Big Five rival Temple last week, they might be better than last year’s 33-3 team, too.
Then again, anyone rooting for ’Nova or just some success for a Philly area team, would hope that, considering that record and a No. 1 seed in the tournament yielded nothing more than an early ouster against eighth-seeded North Carolina State.
The ’Cats have one of the best all-around players in the sport in Josh Hart, the toughest one in Ryan Arcidiacono, Brunson, depth and the ability to play big, small, fast or slow and anything in between.
Can they win it all? Heck yeah. They got everything needed to do so.
But will they? History, their own recent history, says no.
- Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
Hard to believe
Temple may or may not receive an NCAA bid, but the fact it’s even in the conversation is astounding. The Owls are just not that good as a team, even though they do have some individual talent and currently lead the American Athletic Conference. They started 8-7 but have rattled off nine wins in their last 11, including Sunday night’s miraculous comeback at Houston in which sophomore F Obi Enechionyia tallied a career-high 26 points. Whether coach Fran Dunphy wants to admit it or not, Easy-O is his best player, and freshman G Trey Lowe is No. 2. Both should be utilized in those roles if the Owls really want to make a run.
Saint Joseph’s has been a revelation this season, checking in at 22-5 right now even after a disappointing loss at Davidson on Saturday. That pretty much offset the season highlight of beating then-No. 15 Dayton in the Hawks’ previous outing. They are sparked, clearly, by the F tandem of Isaiah Myles (17.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg) and DeAndre Bembry (16.8, 7.9 and 4.4 apg). Unfortunately, their second-place standing in the Atlantic 10 doesn’t exactly hold the same kind of sway as it would have back when Temple was still in the conference. Or Xavier. Or Butler. In short, perception is a problem with their NCAA hopes, at least the at-large ones.
It was just three years ago that we were about to get treated to La Salle’s unexpected Sweet 16 run, the Explorers capturing much of the region’s imagination along the way. But, wow, how times have changed – rather quickly. Sunday’s 40-point loss – yes, that’s right, FORTY POINTS – at George Washington was the apex of embarrassment, even for a team that now stands at 6-19. Makes those fun times celebrating Tyrone Garland’s “South Philly Floater” seem long ago.