Monday, February 23, 2009

Villanova 89, Syracuse 86

Which means Nova wins both of the big February matchups with Syracuse. Which makes sense, because Nova's the clearly better team at this point. At 10-4, the Wildcats would appear to be locked into that fifth seed for the Big East tournament, two games behind the three-way tie for second and two games in front of sixth-place West Virginia. But looks can be deceiving.

Nova can still move into that top four. There's a pretty good chance they win all of their four remaining regular-season games (at DePaul/Georgetown/at Notre Dame/Providence). The ND trip could be tricky, but still -- good chance the red-hot Cats get to 14-4.

If they do that, they could be in double-bye territory, because as we've all heard tell, the rest of Marquette's schedule is a food processor.

Having escaped Georgetown with a surprisingly narrow win, Marquette finishes UConn/at Louisville/at Pitt/Syracuse. Sure, they could win any or all of those games, but they could also very easily lose the first three. And if they did that, and beat Syracuse to wrap the regular season, they'd be 13-5, and Nova (with a 4-0 finish) doesn't have to show up at Madison Square Garden until Thursday.

As for the Orange...well, nothing takes the sting out of a tough Hoya Saturday loss like a tough Syracuse Sunday loss. The Cuse now sits at 7-7, tied with Cincinnati for that critical No. 8 spot. The No. 8 team gets a bye to the second round of the conference tournament. The No. 9 team has to play on Tuesday and, if it wants to win the tournament, win five games in five days. Providence plummeting from above and Notre Dame surging from beneath that tie means it could all still get very jumbled, but as of now next Sunday's Cincinnati-Syracuse game looks big.

The Orange should beat St. John's and Rutgers, and should probably lose to Marquette, so the Cincinnati game for them could mean the difference between a 9-9 conference finish and a 10-8.

For Cincy, which has West Virginia, South Florida and Seton Hall still on the schedule, it could mean the same. For Cincy, it could mean the difference between making the NCAAs and not. (Syracuse, sadly, looks to be in, barring the total collapse for which all good and decent hoop fans are surely praying.)

Elsewhere in the conference on Sunday, kind of a tough loss at St. John's for Seton Hall, whose midseason surge seems to have slowed and whose hopes of cracking that top eight seem to have vanished. And West Virginia takes care of business against a horrendous Rutgers team whose only conference win this season is against winless DePaul. (by 19 points, incidentally -- how horrible is DePaul?)

One game on the Big East docket tonight, as Louisville travels to Georgetown to accept about 20 turnovers, countless easy transition baskets and enough rebounds to make Jen Aniston proud.

Oh yes. Hoya Fever, baby.

Catch it.

And then turn it over.

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