An Impressive Half Season for Villanova

An Impressive Half Season for Villanova Villanova has dropped from the top spot to No. 3 in this week's Associated Press men's college basketball rankings and that might be the best news that could be delivered to veteran coach Jay Wright.

The Wildcats are the defending national champions so the team knows how to handle the pressure, even associated with being No. 1.

Yet it's also a distraction that most teams would rather not have - at least until the final poll is released.

Villanova began the week 15-1 but dropped out of the top spot after being there for five consecutive weeks following a 66-58 loss at Butler, this week's No. 12 team.

That came after Villanova won a current No. 8 Creighton, 80-70 in what qualifies as the Wildcats top win to date.

Splitting games on the road against ranked teams is not the worst of things. And against Butler, Villanova did a lot of good things including committing just six turnovers.

The Wildcats were also 14 for 17 from the foul line, but the home team hit all 15 of its free throws.

On the negative side, the Wildcats were outrebounded 33-24 and shot just 19 for 51 from the field. Butler was 23 for 51 from the field and those four extra made shots were the difference.

Villanova rebounded with a 93-81 win over a 10-5 Marquette team, yet another challenging squad from the underrated Big East.

So for now, Villanova doesn't have to worry about the rankings. The Wildcats do have one major worry - the potential availability of Phil Booth.

The junior guard, who exploded for 20 points in last year's 77-74 national title win over North Carolina, hasn't suited up since playing in the first three games. He has inflammation of his surgically repaired left knee and it's not known if or when he will be back.

Without Booth, Villanova has been playing with a seven-man rotation. To prosper in college basketball (or the NBA for that matter) a team should probably have at least an eight-man rotation.

That said, Villanova has the talent to make a serious run at defending its title. Senior guard Josh Hart (19.8 ppg.) remains a national player of the year candidate.

Kris Jenkins, who made the winning three-pointer in the championship game, is one of the clutch players in college basketball. He entered the week averaging 13.8 points.

Sophomore point guard Jalen Brunson is among the most improved players. He is averaging 14.6 points and 6.3 rebounds.

The other starters are 6-7 redshirt sophomore Mikal Bridges (9.7 ppg.) and 6-9 senior Darryl Reynolds (5.6 ppg., 5.2 rebounds per game).

The two players off the bench are redshirt freshman guard Dontae DiVincenzo (6.9 ppg.) and redshirt sophomore forward Eric Paschall (7.4 ppg.).

Booth's status will have a lot to say about Villanova's future, but even without him, the Wildcats remain a national title contender.

Photo by Marc Narducci of Villanova's Josh Hart.

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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo by Marc Narducci

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