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Villanova a lock for NCAA tourney; others in city are not

The Wildcats are playing for seeding in the NCAA Tournament. The other city schools will have to win their conference tourneys.

Villanova forward JayVaughn Pinkston. (Alex Brandon/AP)
Villanova forward JayVaughn Pinkston. (Alex Brandon/AP)Read more

AS WE CLOSE on February, the city NCAA reality is this: Villanova is playing for a high seed. Everybody else is far removed from consideration.

The Wildcats' offense has now caught and passed its defense in overall efficiency. That means 'Nova has many ways to win. That is very good news for its tournament chances, as teams that rely too much on one facet are always vulnerable.

'Nova goes for a City Series sweep Saturday at Temple before playing its final 10 Big East games. The website projects the Wildcats will finish 26-5, 14-4 heading to New York for the Big East Tournament. I am not so sure they will lose three more games, but, even if they do, it will still have been an amazing regular season.

Given the projection, the 'Cats are very likely a No. 2 seed, which will give them some site preference. The closest second- and third-round sites are Buffalo (369 miles) and Raleigh (399 miles). And if they keep winning, I could see them being slotted in the East Region. The regional round just happens to be at Madison Square Garden.

The other City Six projections: Saint Joseph's 18-12, 8-8; La Salle 16-14, 8-8; Temple 9-21, 4-14; Penn 9-19, 6-8; and Drexel 16-13, 8-8.

Even if SJU and La Salle do a bit better than the projection, which is certainly possible, that won't be enough for at-large consideration, because neither has much of a non-conference resumé. So they would have to do much better, which will not be easy, because the Atlantic 10 is as strong from top to bottom as I can remember. There are very few easy wins.

The good news is that SJU, La Salle, Temple and Drexel will all have second chances in their conference tournaments. Get hot for a few days and you get in.

Penn has one chance - win the Ivy League. I might be crazy, but I keep thinking this team has the ability to be a factor. But ability won't matter if the Quakers don't stop turning it over. They have a ridiculous 252 TOs in 15 games. They turn it over on 22.7 percent of their possessions, which is an improvement over last season, when it was 23.6 percent. It does not matter whether you have offensive talent if the ball never gets to the rim.

No luck

The kenpom site has a category for "luck," good to bad, 1 to 351. Nobody will be surprised to hear that No. 351 is Temple, loser of nine games by seven points or fewer. No. 350 is Colgate, which has lost seven times by seven or fewer. Colgate is coached by Matt Langel, who played for Temple's Fran Dunphy at Penn and then coached under him at Penn and Temple. What did these guys do to upset the basketball gods?

Creighton shootathon

Draw a line through the Creighton game when evaluating Villanova. That was like the race in which the horse lost the jockey at the starting gate. It was not real and no indicator of anything long term.

How good were the Bluejays? They scored 96 points on 66 possessions, an insane 1.45 points per possession, which will happen when you shoot 21-for-35 from the arc, 12-for-23 from inside the arc and commit only eight turnovers. They scored 65 points in the first 10 minutes of each half.

Has any team ever begun a game with nine straight threes? Indiana State did it against Southern Illinois 2 years ago. In fact, the Sycamores made their first 12. Actually, they took only 12, never missing the entire game, an NCAA record.

Ohio State holds the in-game record with 14 straight threes against Wisconsin on March 6, 2011.

Local-ties freshmen

Now that he has started the last six games for St. John's, we are seeing the real Rysheed Jordan. The Vaux High superstar had 16 points against DePaul and 16 more Saturday in the Red Storm's win at Butler. He was 7-for-11 and played 37 minutes against the Bulldogs. The Red Storm had won three straight heading into last night's game at Creighton, and Jordan could be about to blow up completely.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson never has lost much. He was the star on Chester's unbeaten 2012 state champions. Now, he is a valued sixth man for unbeaten, No. 1 Arizona. He averages 7.9 points and 5.5 rebounds in 23.1 minutes and had a season-best 14 points against Northern Arizona on Dec. 23.

Steve Vasturia (St. Joseph's Prep) is starting to get more run for struggling Notre Dame, losers of five out of six heading into last night. He played 30 minutes in three of the previous four games. He is still not shooting well (32 percent), but did have nine points in the Irish's biggest win of the season, 79-77 over Duke, on Jan. 4.

Miles Overton, Vasturia's teammate at the Prep, averages 2.8 points in 8 minutes at improved Wake Forest. He had a season-best nine points on Nov. 12 against VMI.

McDermott to 3,000

Creighton's Doug McDermott has scored 2,702 points. He has 10 regular-season and a minimum of two postseason games left in his career. If he averages 25 in those games, he will become the eighth player with 3,000 points and only the second since Lionel Simmons finished with 3,217 in 1990.

By the way, Pete Maravich scored his record 3,667 points in only 83 games. He had 1,387 field goals, 893 free throws and no threes. Do the math and think about it.

Best unknown player

That would be Alan Williams, from Cal Santa Barbara (UCSB). The 6-8, 280 pounds Williams averages 22.9 points and 10.6 rebounds. He has become a cult figure for hoops junkies who love old-school players who do all the fundamentals correctly.

This and that

* Only 16 players averaged 20 or more points last season. With 6 weeks left in the regular season, 27 are averaging 20 or more. Last season, two teams averaged 80 points or more. It is 25 right now.

* Creighton is No. 1 in offensive efficiency (1.27 points per possession) and three-point accuracy (43.3 percent).

* Saint Louis, which is playing at a different level from the rest of the A-10, leads the nation in defensive efficiency (.867 points per possession). Any basket against the Billikens feels like a relief.

* A-10 legends from every team will be at the Barclays Center in March during the men's tournament. La Salle will be represented by Lionel Simmons and SJU's honoree is Tony Costner. The A-10 women will be honored at their tourney in Richmond, Va., including Dale Hodges (SJU) and Chrissie Donahue Doogan (La Salle).

* Duke is good enough offensively to win the national championship (1.25 PPP, second to Creighton). It was struggling because of defense, but has been much better during its five-game win streak.

* And how cool will it be Saturday to see Coach K and Jim Boeheim match up at the Carrier Dome in front of what will be the largest on-campus crowd in history? Assuming neither has any plans to retire soon, it won't be long until both have 1,000 wins while trying to beat each other for the ACC title.

* Think the Big 12 has some serious coaches? West Virginia's Bob Huggins (735), Texas' Rick Barnes (576), Oklahoma's Lon Kruger (531), Kansas' Bill Self (522) and Texas Tech's Tubby Smith (521) have combined for 2,885 wins. Kruger is the only coach to take five schools to the NCAA Tournament — Kansas State, Florida, Illinois, UNLV and Oklahoma.