After being two games behind in the loss column with three games to play in the Big East less than a week ago and in jeopardy of losing its chance to claim a share of the conference regular-season championship, Villanova has new life.
Back-to-back defeats for Marquette – the first on Wednesday to the Wildcats at Finneran Pavilion, the second Sunday at home against Creighton – have given the Cats a half-game lead in the standings at 13-4, with both teams tied in the loss column.
Going into the final week of the regular season, the Wildcats have one game remaining and the Golden Eagles (12-4 Big East) have two. Coincidentally, each team will play at Seton Hall, with Marquette going into the Prudential Center in Newark on Wednesday, and Villanova closing out the regular season in North Jersey on Saturday.
The Golden Eagles will close out their season Saturday at home against Georgetown, a team that’s on the edge of a very crowded NCAA Tournament bubble.
Villanova had its run of four straight regular-season Big East titles snapped last season by Xavier, but the Wildcats captured the conference tournament. Marquette, which joined the Big East in the 2005-06 season, was a regular-season co-champion in 2012-13.
Should the Cats and the Golden Eagles finished tied, they would be declared co-champions but a tiebreaker would be applied to determine the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, which begins March 13 at Madison Square Garden.
The two teams went 1-1 against each other in the regular season so the next tiebreaker would be the record of each against teams behind them in the standings.
The week begins with a five-team logjam behind the top two. Xavier, which is on a five-game winning streak, and Georgetown are tied for third place at 8-8. St. John’s is a half-game behind at 8-9, and Seton Hall and Creighton are 7-9.
Villanova would benefit most from having St. John’s finish third, given that the Red Storm swept Marquette in the regular season while the Wildcats split with them. However, the Golden Eagles would have the advantage if Xavier placed third since they went 2-0 against them earlier, while 'Nova went 1-1.
Whatever the case, Villanova coach Jay Wright is pleased to have the week off to rest his players.
“We’ll have a light practice Monday, off Tuesday, get back to work on Wednesday,” he said after the win over Butler. “We’ve had a lot of games in a short period of time, and our guys have handled it real well. This break is going to be good for us.”