Villanova can help its chances at securing a double-bye in the Big East tournament with a win in its regular season finale Thursday night against Providence.
The Friars, losers of six straight to the No. 11 Wildcats, have just as much at stake, however, as they look to add to their credentials for an NCAA tournament bid.
Villanova (24-6, 12-5) is trying to finish the regular season with 25 wins for the first time since 1950-51 and only the third time in school history. The Wildcats are coming off a 77-60 victory over Notre Dame on Monday - their fourth win in five games.
Villanova enters Thursday tied with Marquette for fourth place in the Big East after the Golden Eagles lost 90-75 to Pittsburgh on Wednesday night. The top four teams in the conference receive a double-bye in the Big East tournament, requiring only three wins to claim the title.
If Marquette, which closes the regular season at home against No. 25 Syracuse on Saturday, and Villanova remain tied at the end of the season, a complicated tie-breaking procedure would be used.
“We’ve never been a group to look ahead,” forward Shane Clark said after Monday’s win. “We go out every game and play our best, and at the end of the year, we see how far we got.”
Scottie Reynolds, who scored 31 in a 94-91 win over Providence (18-11, 10-7) on Feb. 4, is looking to build off another solid performance. He finished with 23 points Monday and connected on all four 3-point attempts in the second half to finish 6-of-7 from long range. He also had six rebounds, five assists and only one turnover after committing at least four in four of the previous five games.
“I didn’t see his stats, I don’t have to,” coach Jay Wright said. “He just controlled the game.”
While the Wildcats are trying to capture a double-bye in the Big East, Providence is hoping for a first-round bye, awarded to the fifth through eighth seeds in the conference. A win against Villanova could also make it hard for the NCAA to leave the Friars out of the field of 65 when its announced March 15.
The Friars have won their last two, following an upset of then-No. 1 Pittsburgh on Feb. 24 with a 73-66 victory at Rutgers on Sunday. Providence has 10 conference wins for the first time since 2003-04 - the last time it made the NCAA tournament. Two of those victories have come against Top 25 opponents, including a 100-94 victory over then-No. 15 Syracuse on Jan. 28.
The Friars, tied with West Virginia and the Orange for the eighth seed in the conference, believe they have done enough to merit a place in the NCAA tournament.
“I feel like what was important was that we finished in the top half of the Big East,” coach Keno Davis said. “If you finish in the top half in the best league in the country, I can live with that. Whether they put us in or not, I feel like we’re deserving.”
Davis is looking for leading scorer Weyinmi Efejuku to keep up his recent surge. Efejuku scored 28 points in Sunday’s win over the Scarlett Knights and is averaging 25.0 points on 58.0 percent (20-for-34) shooting in the last three games.
Providence’s last win over the Wildcats was a 100-74 road victory on Feb. 11, 2004. This is the Friars’ first visit to Villanova since 2005.
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