On January 15th, Villanova was the No. 7 ranked team in the country. They had only lost once all year, were undefeated in the Big East and even had a couple wins over ranked opponents. Everything was rosy for Jay Wright's boys. But then the roses turned brown, fell off their vine, lit on fire and burned down the house. The Wildcats would go just 5-10 from that point including a loss in the first round of the Big East tournament. Clearly, they are not heading into the NCAA Tournament playing their best basketball.
The question of what happened to Villanova has been asked a hundred times and there hasn't been a ton of answers. There's no doubt that injuries to the Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher late in the season hurt, but the Wildcats were barely even competitive in games down the stretch against St. John's, Notre Dame & Pitt. It seemed like they had a chance to get some confidence back when they drew USF in the first round of the big East tournament, but ended up being the first team in tournament history to blow a 16 point halftime lead and lose. What's worse, they may have lost big manin the process.
Villanova has the raw talent to make a run in the tournament and they really do have some great wins under their belt this year. They've beaten Syracuse in Syracuse as well as probably 4-5 other tournament bound teams. The problem is that these quality wins came almost exclusively in the first half of the season. Having lost 5 straight to end the second half of the season, the Wildcats look ripe for an early exit.
Record: 21-11, 9-9 Big East
Key wins: 1/22 vs. Syracuse 83-72 - In front of the second largest crowd in Carrier Dome history, Villanova got an emphatic 83-72 win. At that point, there was a decent argument to be made that the Wildcats were one of the top 5 teams in the country.
12/30 vs Temple 78-74 - Not only was this a win over a top 25 team headed to the tournament, it also gave Villanova bragging rights in Philadelphia securing the unofficial Philadelphia Big 5 title.
Key losses: 1/26 vs. Providence 83-68 - This was the game where Wildcats fans really got the notion that something might be wrong. It was one thing for Villanova to lose a tough Big East game away to UConn 9 days before this, but not a conference bottom feeder like Providence. Nova would only win another four games from this point on.
3/8 vs USF 70-69 - Villanova lost four straight games(all against ranked opponents) to finish their regular season. But in the first round of the Big East tournament they had a chance to turn things around and maybe go on a bit of a run. USF had never beaten Villanova and the Wildcats had gotten off to a 16 point halftime lead, which no team had ever come back from in Big East tourney history... until that day.
Player(s) to watch: The two Coreys, Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes, were both named to the All Big East 2nd and 3rd teams respectively. They also led the team in scoring averaging 15 points a piece. Sophomore guard from Philadelphia Maalik Wayns is also a guy to keep an eye on after he had a bit of a breakout year averaging 14 a game.
See our printable 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket.