A win over No. 2 Kansas and a win over No. 23 Iowa in consecutive nights placed Villanova atop the Battle 4 Atlantis bracket, pretty much ensuring the Wildcats will return to the AP poll on Monday.
It'll be the first time Villanova's been ranked there since the week of Feb. 28, 2011. Jay Wright's team has been inconsistent, something of an unknown, and sometimes a bore in the past two years. But now Villanova, which is 7-0, looks to be a crew that's capable of competing for a Big East championship. At the very least, it's a team with a pair of really nice wins to take back home.
Those Ws will make for fine stock come Selection Sunday.
Villanova has reason to boast because it rallied for the second straight night en route to an upset. On Saturday, the team trailed by nine at the half to the Hawkeyes, who were rolling and looking like they'd be the ones with an unbeaten record and a Bahamas championship. Instead, more timely 3-point shooting from Ryan Arcidiacono and big plays from Josh Hart (16 points) and Kris Jenkins, a pair of freshmen, made the difference.
"We just have great chemistry," Arcidiacono said on TV afterward. "No one's in it for themselves or anything like that. We're all in for the team and we all love each other."
James Bell, who had a team-best 20 points Saturday, was named Battle 4 Atlantis MVP. He had 47 points and 17 rebounds over the course of the past three nights. As a group, Villanova looks gritty, bellicose, unflappable. At certain points, it seemed Nova was out of it; Iowa had a 55-43 lead with less than 12 minutes left.
Through the seasons first three weeks, few teams have showed resolve against better opponents than these Cats.
Devyn Marble of Iowa led all scorers with 24. The Hawkeyes committed 28 fouls to Villanova's 19, and in overtime gave up five second-chance rebounds to Villanova. Thanks to 14 3-pointers and 16 offensive rebounds in total, Wright's team maintained its stride. Fun group! It's a bit undersized, but it's hard to figure Nova will drop games this year for lack of effort.
"It's only November," Wright said on TV afterward. "We've got a lot more to learn."
What most of us have learned: Villanova is a notch or two, or five, better than anticipated at this point. It was a fun November. Now onto month No. 2.