A Shabazz Napier 29-footer with 0.6 seconds left in overtime handed Villanova its second over-time loss to a Big-East rival in less than a week, and gave Connecticut a 73-70 victory over the Wildcats.
It seemed Villanova’s Ty Johnson sent the game to double OT after he converted a game tying lay-up with 5.4 seconds left in the first overtime. However, Napier wasn’t ready to give up he rushed down the court and drilled the deep three-pointer making an already painful season for Villanova worse.
The loss marked the second time in the past week the Wildcats blew a lead of 18 or greater at home. Notre Dame overcame a 20 point deficit Saturday night in route to its overtime win over the Wildcats.
Villanova (11-16, 4-11) has now lost three straight games, and six of its last seven games. In today’s college basketball world almost all of the teams considered to be a national power have disappointing seasons, but the 2011-2012 campaign is borderline disastrous, and it causes one to wonder if this season will have an impact on the future of the program.
There is an old over used saying about Karma, and for Villanova University basketball that saying certainly applies in the 2011-2012 college basketball season. Three of the six division one programs in the Philadelphia area are enjoying their best seasons in well over a decade, while Nova is suffering its worst.
Drexel University appears to be heading for its first NCAA Tournament since Malik Rose was a Dragon back in 1996. La Salle is on pace for its best season since it last reached the NCAA Tournament in 1992, and the Temple Owls are the 22nd ranked team in the nation with the talent to reach the “Sweet 16” for the first time since 2001.
Even Penn and St.Joe’s have put together respectable seasons, but Villanova, the school that once broke up the Big-5, and currently is preventing Temple from joining the Big-East is having its worst season since head coach Jay Wright took over for Steve Lappas in 2001.
Last fall Villanova blocked Temple from joining the Big-East in order to protect its program from losing recruits to Temple. If Villanova does not rebound from this season in 2013, the school might eventually lose local recruits to Temple despite the block.
Villanova’s current team has no seniors; however, it has three junior starters who were considered the top of their recruitment class when they entered Villanova. The current class of juniors which was highly regarded when they arrived at Villanova has only disappointed Wildcat fans this season. The Villanova program needs its junior class to improve greatly in 2013 or else the program could fall to the doldrums of the Big-East.
Yes, currently it is just one bad season for Villanova, but if the junior class does not step up as seniors people will blame Jay Wright, and suddenly the young up and coming coach does not look too appealing anymore to the big time prospects, which would then put Villanova in a situation where it would be competing against Temple for recruits much more than it has the past ten seasons.
One bad season will not hurt Villanova in a recruiting battle with Temple; one bad season might hurt Villanova in the Big-East battle for recruits. If Nova strings together a few bad seasons while Temple experiences success, then despite Temple being in the Atlantic-10, it will be a much more attractive landing spot for local college basketball recruits.
Villanova needs to hope that Temple does not make it out of the first weekend of play in the NCAA Tournament this March. If Temple fails to reach the Sweet 16 it will also fail in getting the publicity and news coverage locally that comes along with it. A poor March performance by Temple means the Wildcats will remain the Philadelphia area’s top dog in college basketball despite its terrible season. That is the benefit of playing in a major conference like the Big-East it allows a school to have a down season and still be an attractive landing spot for recruits, which is why Nova does not want Temple to join the conference.
Villanova thought it protected its program by preventing the Owls from joining the Big-East, but the strategic block by Villanova may prove irrelevant if the school continues its downward spiral, which started in 2010 when the Wildcats finished 4-7 in the regular season after a 20-1 start, and ultimately lost in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament.
Since reaching the Final Four the Wildcats have progressively gotten worse, which is expected no one expects a team to reach a Final Four in back to back seasons, however, no expected the Wildcats to fall this far. The team was supposed to have the talent to stay relevant in the Big-East, and at the very least the Big-5.
Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats deserve a mulligan for one bad season, however if the team suffers through another clunker next season while other area school’s experience success it will be very interesting to see how people out in the Main Line react.