Justice served for NCAA tourney as Villanova knocked off the No. 1 line
The Wildcats didn't have the look or feel of a No. 1 seed -- and now they won't be that. A fair outcome in the Big East quarterfinals.
NEW YORK -- Sterling Gibbs was looking like Kemba Walker out there.
Gibbs ended Villanova's hopes at a No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed Thursday afternoon by giving the Big East tournament an ending that made it arguably the best league bracket in the sport for the better part of three decades. That step-back dagger 19-footer by Gibbs put No. 8 Seton Hall over the top of third-ranked, No. 1-seeded Villanova 64-63 in the Big East quarters.
It means Villanova's not going to be a No. 1 seed in the bracket that matters.
This is a good thing, because Villanova never should have been placed on the top line. In terms of how jarring this loss will be, I think it's a good thing for that team and this year's NCAA Tournament. Ejecting the Wildcats from the conversation makes matters easier in part because nobody knows who this Villanova team is. It could be really good? It's certainly not great. The Wildcats were pasted twice by Creighton and lost big to Syracuse earlier this season.
Until Thursday there were no terrible losses, and contrasted against 28 wins, it made for one of the more unusual resumes in recent memory. But Nova hadn't earned a top-40 RPI win since November. We were waiting to see what could come next from Jay Wright's team. Dropping a last-second game to Seton Hall, a Seton Hall team recording its first win -- ever -- against a team ranked No. 3 or higher? That's damaging.
"That game was about Seton Hall really executing and really playing well, I don't think it was about us playing poorly," Wright said. "Good teams find a way to win anyway."
When you need a 16-0 run to get back in the game with the .500 Pirates, then can't make them wilt, it's pretty much on you.
You think Wichita State has doubters? Nobody's going to believe in Villanova unless it wins at least three games in the big bracket. Outside of being outright bad, the one thing you don't want to be is boring. Villanova's been that, in part because there is no star that's emerged.
"We want to win when we're not shooting the ball well," Wildcats guard Ryan Arcidiacono said. "And I don't think we played as well defensively as we could have in the first half. The NCAA Tournament and Big East tournament, it's one and done. We're going to have to bring it right from the start. We're going to have to bring it ourselves."
As for playing in the East region/coming back to Madison Square Garden, Wright said location is in large part overrated. The team's had games in Philadelphia where it's trailed to double-digit seeds in the second half. Other times, like in Boston in 2010, playing with a big crowd helped them make the Final Four.
"We're happy to be there," Wright said of getting back to the NCAAs, which Villanova missed out just once in 10 years. "We'll play anybody, anywhere. We don't think about that stuff, we don't talk about that stuff."
The building was buzzing, though, and that was the upside to the upshot in this matinee drama. Two classic Big East teams gave a thrilling ending in the league's first year of rearrangement, amid some concerns over whether the luster of the Big East tournament would be lost.
"This was not about one seeds, two seeds," Wright said. "This was about coming to Madison Square Garden and winning the Big East tournament. Winning the Big East tournament would mean much more to us than getting a one seed."
Now neither is attainable. The Wildcats never had the look, smell or feel of a No. 1. It's not the worst thing, it just means the bracket should be a little closer to more accurately representing the four best teams in college basketball come Selection Sunday.
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