The Big East comes down to the final week of the regular season with No. 8 Seton Hall holding the best chance of winning its first outright regular-season championship since 1993, which it can do Wednesday night with a victory over Villanova at Prudential Center.
Meanwhile, the best that the 14th-ranked Wildcats and No. 11 Creighton (both 22-7, 11-5) can achieve is to finish in a three-way tie for first with the Pirates (21-7, 13-3) and figure out the tiebreakers that will determine their seeds in the Big East Tournament starting next Wednesday.
It sounds like exciting stuff, but not necessarily for ‘Nova’s players.
“Oh no, never,” junior guard Collin Gillespie said Tuesday when asked if he took a peek at the standings. “We never talk about it, we never look at it. We’re just worried about becoming the best Villanova basketball team we can by the end.”
“Not really,” added junior forward Jermaine Samuels. “We just stick to the next game no matter what and just focus on our next opponent.”
Every Big East team started the week with two games remaining. Both Villanova and Creighton will match up against Seton Hall and Georgetown, with the Wildcats playing them on the road, and the Bluejays taking on both in Omaha, Neb.
If Creighton loses Wednesday night to the Hoyas, the Cats still have a chance at the No. 1 seed with two wins. But if the Bluejays win, ‘Nova loses its path to the No. 1 seed before its game against Seton Hall even ends.
If the standings end in a three-way tie at 13-5, Creighton is the 1 seed thanks to its season sweep of Seton Hall. Villanova would be No. 2 and the Pirates No. 3. However, if the Wildcats lose one or both of their remaining games, fast-charging Providence (17-12, 10-6) could overtake them and drop them to a 4 seed.
Villanova coach Jay Wright might know all this, but he isn’t saying much about it.
“You’re probably sick of me always saying this, but we’re just trying to get better every game,” he said. “We understand everything that’s going on around us. We’re not oblivious to it, but we’ve got to fight that and get better every game.
“We played good defense against Providence,” he added, referring to Saturday’s 58-54 defeat. “We got better defensively, but offensively there’s things that they exploited, and we’ve got to work on.”
It won’t be an easy game in Newark, N.J. The Pirates will celebrate senior night, meaning conference player of the year candidate Myles Powell will be playing his last home game, adding to a career that has seen him score 2,223 points and knock down a school-record 343 three-point baskets.
Powell, who is 10th in Division I and second in the Big East in scoring with a 21.5-point average, led the Pirates with 19 points in their 70-64 win over Villanova on Feb. 8 at the Wells Fargo Center.
“No, that’s not going to be good,” Wright said with a wry smile when reminded of Powell’s senior night. “He’s tough enough to deal with. I hope he’s real emotional and it gets to him.