|After knocking off No. 5 Louisville and No. 3 Syracuse in back-to-back games, Villanova is looking more like a NCAA Tournament team than it did a week ago. (ncaa.com)|
Last week wasn’t just a good week for Villanova basketball. It was one of the best weeks they could have asked for in a time when a chance at the NCAA Tournament was falling out of reach.
This was the type of week that can turn around a season. At 11-7 and facing three straight Big East losses, Villanova was sinking to the bottom fast. On Jan. 22 Nova found new life with a 73-64 upset of No. 5 Louisville, whom many have picked to win a national title this year. It was a huge win for the resume, but still in the season as a whole, looked more like luck than what was meant to happen.
Then Saturday came with another matchup with a top-five team in No. 3 Syracuse. It took a little bit of magic in a game-tying 3-pointer by Ryan Arcidacono to send the game into overtime, but again Villanova found a way to win 75-71.
Not many teams even get the chance to play top-five opponents in back-to-back games, let alone come away with two victories. The feat is so impressive many are now asking if the team that lost to Columbia by nearly 20 points earlier this year could now be in the NCAA Tournament.
Coach Jay Wright has won his share of big games with Nova, so it’s a little less surprising to see this happen with him as the coach. He deserves much of the credit for getting his team prepared for such formidable opponents. This is a very young team who might finally be finding its identity. But the work is not over yet.
Last week was the momentum shift, but this week will prove what kind of team Villanova really is. The Wildcats still have 11 Big East games remaining, where they could either spring off this confidence boost or fall back into the losing pattern of the first half of the season. The next test is Wednesday, when Nova travels to No. 24 Notre Dame.
Both of the top-five wins were at home, and the Wildcats have struggled on the road (4-3) thus far. It’s easy to point at those signature wins as evidence, but those will only help if Nova continues to win. Only two currently ranked teams remain on Villanova’s schedule, so the Wildcats can’t afford any bad losses.
It’s a great story if Nova can write it; a young team struggles early, postseason dreams seemingly out of reach before turning it around midway through the season and reaching the NCAA Tournament. But wins over Louisville and Syracuse won’t get the Wildcats to their goal alone.
A road win at Notre Dame would sure help in making this great week evolve into a season Nova fans didn’t think would be possible a week ago.