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Villanova’s recent skid drops its likely NCAA Tournament seed

The Wildcats were as high as a No. 4 seed earlier this month when they were riding an 11-game winning streak. But their slump has dropped them to No. 7, as updated by ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi.

Phil Booth, right, of Villanova gets an elbow to the chin by Drew Edwards of Providence during the 2nd half at Finneran Pavilion on Feb. 13, 2019.
Phil Booth, right, of Villanova gets an elbow to the chin by Drew Edwards of Providence during the 2nd half at Finneran Pavilion on Feb. 13, 2019.Read moreCHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

It wasn’t that long ago when Villanova was riding an 11-game winning streak and was firmly established as a No. 4 seed in most NCAA tournament bracket projections except that of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball committee itself, which had the Wildcats as the first team out of its mid-season bracket reveal of the top 16 on Feb. 9.

However, life on the basketball court has changed for the Cats since then – four losses in their last five games – and their seed has tumbled as a result.

With their important rematch against Big East pacesetter Marquette looming on Wednesday night at Finneran Pavilion, the Wildcats came in Tuesday as a No. 7 seed in ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s update.

Lunardi’s latest projection has Villanova playing in the South Region, with its first game in Jacksonville, Fla., against No. 10 Ohio State, and the winner likely playing No. 2 Tennessee.

“I have them as the best 7 [seed], and it’s a tossup between a 6 and a 7,” Lunardi said Tuesday night. “They fell more because of the other teams around them. Barring really awful losses to the bottom of the league, I don’t think they’re really going to drop much more than that. Even if they were to lose to Marquette, I don’t think they would drop.

“But they’re running out of chances to really rise, as well. They’re going to settle in. If I had a bet, I’d say that they’ll be a 6 come Selection Sunday, which I think actually is a good spot for them, because you stay away from the 1, and if you win your first game, you get a 3.”

Lunardi also said that if the Wildcats are a 6 or a 7 seed, they would have a decent chance to end up in Hartford, Conn., the closest first- and second-round site to their campus, for the first weekend.

“Once you’re not in the top four, then all you are is linked to those top fours,” he said. “If they’re a 6, then they have to go to where one of the 3s already has been slotted.”

Ranked No. 28 Wednesday in the NET, Villanova hits the homestretch of its regular season – two games left after Marquette – with a losing record (3-5) in Quadrant 1 games. The Wildcats have two more chances to gain Q1 wins: against the Golden Eagles (No. 18 in the NET) and March 9 at Seton Hall (No. 62).

The Cats’ worst loss on their team sheet is to Penn, currently with a NET ranking of 118.

Owls bubble weakens

Temple’s ride on the NCAA Tournament bubble took a hit Tuesday night with its 81-73 loss at Memphis. The Owls went into the game as the No. 2 team on Lunardi’s last-four-in list, which would mean a play-in First Four game in Dayton.

The Owls, who dropped from No. 51 to No. 56 in the NET rankings, lost a chance to get a vital Quadrant 1 win on its resume. They are 2-6 against Q1 opponents with wins over Houston and South Florida, although the latter game would drop to Quadrant 2 if the Bulls, whose NET rank is 72, drop below 75.

Lunardi had projected last week that Temple would need to go 4-1 in its last five to have a good shot at an NCAA Tournament bid. Now the Owls would need to win out in their final three games against Tulane, UConn and Central Florida and what Lunardi has called “an NCAA-level win” in the AAC tournament.