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Jerardi: Villanova makes every minute count

IF THE NCAA Tournament selections were now, my four No. 1 seeds would be: East – Villanova South – Baylor

IF THE NCAA Tournament selections were now, my four No. 1 seeds would be:

East – Villanova

South – Baylor

Midwest – Kansas

West – Gonzaga

After beating Providence, 78-68, Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, Villanova has now played 20 games or 800 minutes of basketball this season. All 800 have not been perfect obviously, but the Wildcats (19-1, 7-1 Big East) have played, according to my count, three really bad minutes, the last three at Butler. How many teams are so consistently on point? Only one: Villanova.

Last season's national champs played 40 games. This 'Nova team has 11 regular-season games left and somewhere between two and nine postseason games to play (I am thinking a lot closer to nine or maybe even nine, which would again bring them to 40 so they are at least halfway home).

I am repeating myself, but, if you love to watch wonderful baskets and what right-thinking human does not, savor every moment watching this team. This city has seen some incredible college basketball through the years, but never anything this good for this long.

Seniors Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins scored 44 points on just 28 shots against the Friars (13-8, 3-5). Hart also had six rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block. The 'Cats led wire-to-wire, 76-57 with two minutes left. They shot 11 free throws and made them all. They scored 1.24 points per possession. They shoot 59.5 percent on twos, second nationally. They shoot 79.2 percent from the foul line, fourth in the country. They attracted a cool 18,731 to WFC.

Jenkins and Hart have played in 130 college games and won 116 of them. Fellow senior Darryl Reynolds' game is the very definition of reliable. Whoever beats them in the NCAA Tournament, if anybody actually beats them, will have to play every minute just like Villanova does – all out, precise and smart. Good luck with that.

Packed Palestra

One of my favorite things about Philly hoops is a jammed Palestra on a January Saturday night for a Big 5 game between two teams under .500. It is a tribute to the city's everlasting love to the 33rd Street shrine, which just had its 90th birthday.

Really, where else would 8,590 show up (just shy of the magic 8,722) to see two teams on losing streaks trying to stay relevant in their leagues? Only in this city at the Palestra.

Saint Joseph's beat Penn, 78-71. The Hawks (9-9, 1-2 Big 5) got 23 points from point guard Lamarr Kimble who played his usual 40 minutes. SJU also got 19 points and nine rebounds from freshman Charlie Brown who has definite star potential. St. Joe's had just seven turnovers and took 43 free throws to 15 for Penn.

Penn (6-9, 0-3) trailed 31-16, led for just 42 second-half seconds, but was always a threat to get there, so close, but. . .Matt Howard had 19 points and 12 rebounds for the Quakers who continued a seasonlong trend by shooting just 8-for-32 from the arc. They shoot 32.9 percent for the season. The Hawks (31 percent) are actually worse.

But Saturday night was not about shooting percentages or records. It was about a place and a feeling and a tradition. Open the Palestra on a January Saturday night for a City Series game and they will come.

Drexel loses

UNC Wilmington (19-2, 8-0 CAA) appears on its way to one of the great seasons in league history after beating Drexel, 87-74. The Dragons (7-13, 1-6) were only down 53-51 with 15 minutes left, but UNCW is just too good.

Drexel got 14 points and 10 rebounds from Rodney Williams. The Dragons committed just 12 turnovers against the UNCW pressure, but there is no way they could overcome 12 points and 24 rebounds by Devontae Cacok who had a classic shooting line, 6-for-9 from the field, 0-for-5 from the foul line.

Check these numbers out. Cacok is 118-for-147 (80.3 percent) from the field and 32-for-64 (50 percent) from the free throw line. Could be some Hack A Devontae down the stretch.