So, what are you doing Wednesday?

Well, if you're Villanova's basketball team, you have an opening-round bye in the Big East Tournament.

And who knew that Jay Wright's biggest concern heading up to New York might be that his guys had too much rest?

Last night at the Pavilion, the 11th-ranked Wildcats earned their way straight into Thursday's conference quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden with a 97-80 victory over Providence.

By securing the fourth seed, they will draw the winner of Wednesday's 5-vs.-12 game between Marquette and an opponent to be determined.

Any way you look at it, a full week off in March is a welcome dilemma.

"Did we definitely [clinch]?" Wright asked. "OK. [Because] we purposely don't ask about it, talk about it or think about it. But everyone else is talking about it, so you know. Even though we work hard at not [addressing that stuff].

"This team needs it. I could see they're close to the bottom of the tank. It's really good for us."

The Wildcats (25-6, 13-5) also tied a school record for wins in a season. It had been done three times, but not since 1950-51. And they've now won 28 straight in this building, including 13 this season.

They were picked in the preseason to finish fifth. The only three teams ahead of them in the standings are Nos. 1, 3 and 6 in the Associated Press polls. Not too shabby, particularly after their 2-3 Big East start.

"I'm amazed at this senior class [which has won more games than any in program history, 97]," said Wright, who should be considered for Big East Coach of the Year. "I'm just so impressed.

"Coming into this year, with this league, nobody knew. It was a monster. So many things can happen. We never let any one game affect us. It's hard for me. And I'm 47. But they did that. It's not the record, but how they did it . . . These guys are good."

On Feb. 4, after leading by 20 early in the second half, Villanova won by three at Providence. This time, it never came down to the endgame. The Wildcats, who were up a dozen after 13 minutes, still held five with 13 minutes to go. Then they went on a 14-6 run. But Providence (18-12, 10-8), which is probably on the NCAA bubble, wouldn't go quietly, and the margin was eight at 3:36. The Wildcats scored the next 13, and it was time to start boning up on the bracket.

"You see what [looking ahead] got us last year, when we were a young team," said one of the fourth-year guys, Dwayne Anderson. "Now that it's over, this is a great accomplishment, for the seniors and the guys under us. Now they know what it takes . . .

"I honestly believe we live out what [Wright] says. [But] there's never any days off."

The Wildcats got 23 points from Scottie Reynolds, who shot 9-for-13 after going 8-for-12 at Notre Dame on Monday night. He was 5-for-9 from the arc, which made him 11-for-16 in the last two games. He also had four assists and as many steals.

Anderson, who's been in a shooting slump since getting a career-high 22 points at Syracuse on Feb. 22, scored 19, to go with seven boards and four steals in only 17 foul-induced minutes. Dante Cunningham had 19 points and eight boards. Corey Fisher, who's also been struggling from the field, added 13 points, six assists and four steals off the bench. Corey Stokes contributed 11 points in 21 minutes. And Reggie Redding had 11 assists, which was four better than his previous career best.

The Wildcats had season highs for assists (26) and steals (19). They turned it over only seven times, 15 fewer than the visitors, coming off a season-low five at Notre Dame. They converted 58.3 percent from the floor after intermission, and 52.0 percent from three-point range for the full 40.

The senior-heavy Friars, who beat then-No. 1 Pittsburgh at home on Feb. 24, received 29 points from Weyinmi Efejuku, two off his personal high. He scored 12 of their first 14 and later had all 12 of his team's points in a 3-minute span late in the second half. He had none in the closing 5:07. Jonathan Kale and Sharaud Curry finished with 14 each.

In the first meeting, Providence went 17-for-40 from deep. This time it was 8-for-23.

Villanova finished 5-1 against the three teams it played twice this season (Marquette and Syracuse were the others). That's not easy to do. Especially after the Wildcats dropped the first one, on New Year's Day at Marquette.

And here they are. Getting a double bye doesn't guarantee you anything, either in New York or in the NCAA Tournament. Still, it's a statement.

One that could even help the Wildcats grab a spot in South Philly for the first weekend of the Madness. Not that they would ever dare peek that far ahead.

"We knew it would be a tough challenge," Reynolds said. "I'm proud of this team. The one thing we wanted to do was stay consistent. I think we did that. We just kept pushing.

"We want to succeed. I think you're seeing that now. We feel there's a long way to go. We're going to enjoy this. But then it's back to work. We're only looking to win the next game."

Even if they have to wait an extra day for the opportunity. *