VILLANOVA'S basketball team, coming off an unexpected Sweet 16 appearance as a 12 seed, started the 2008-09 season ranked 23rd. The next time the Wildcats weren't in the Top 25 was the last week of February in 2011. They haven't been back since, even though they beat three Top 5 opponents last season. In fact, the best they did was get one vote in the final regular-season poll last March.
Now they're back, at No. 14, after beating No. 2 Kansas and No. 23 Iowa on Friday and Saturday to win the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas.
"It's great for our fans, our school and the Big East," Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. "For us internally, though, it's another challenge. We have to deal with all of the attention that comes with that. It's good - I would much rather deal with the attention of that than not being good because then that becomes your challenge."
The Wildcats will put their 7-0 record on the line tomorrow night at the Pavilion against Penn (2-4), the start of a three-game Big 5 stretch. They've beaten the Quakers nine straight. On Saturday, they'll be at Saint Joseph's, just their second trip down City Avenue to Hagan Arena, and on Dec. 15 they host La Salle.
They lost at Hagan 2 years ago by 16, their only loss to the Hawks in the last five meetings. They lost to the Explorers last season, for the first time since 2001.