Villanova and West Virginia were picked to finish as the top two teams in the Big East in the preseason. At this point, both would love second place.
With the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament up in the air, the ninth-ranked Wildcats host the No. 10 Mountaineers at the Wachovia Center on Saturday.
Top-ranked Syracuse has clinched the Big East title, with Villanova (24-5, 13-4) in second place and West Virginia (23-6, 12-5) tied for third with No. 17 Pittsburgh.
The Wildcats will earn the No. 2 seed if they complete a sweep of the Mountaineers after an 82-75 win in Morgantown on Feb. 8. If West Virginia wins, it becomes unclear who will gain the No. 2 seed since it will depend on the Panthers’ game against Rutgers on Saturday and possibly a number of other Big East results due to a complex tiebreaker procedure.
Both teams will be looking to head to New York on a winning note, and West Virginia will be looking for revenge. Villanova shot 56.9 percent last month as Scottie Reynolds scored 21 points and Corey Fisher added 17.
The Wildcats also clamped down on West Virginia star Da’Sean Butler, who made 2 of 12 shots for 13 points. Butler scored 43 in his previous game against the Wildcats on Feb. 13, 2009.
Reynolds, averaging 12.3 points on 37.5 percent shooting in four career games against West Virginia, needs four points to move into second place on the school’s all-time list behind Kerry Kittles.
The senior guard scored all of his 17 points in the second half of a 77-73 win at Cincinnati on Tuesday.
“I was being aggressive in the first half, but I didn’t want to force anything,” Reynolds said. “I always try to take my shots when they are there, and make plays for other people.”
The Wildcats nearly blew a 16-point lead with 6 minutes left as they bounced back from a 95-77 road loss to the Orange last Saturday. Villanova got a terrific all-around effort with six players in double figures against the Bearcats.
“Hey, it was a tough loss (at Syracuse),” coach Jay Wright said. “It didn’t kill us, but it was a tough loss. And what you get to recover from that is being at Cincinnati against a team that’s hungry and tough and physical.”
West Virginia won for the fourth time in five games, 81-68 over No. 19 Georgetown on Monday. Butler scored 22 points in his final home game and Devin Ebanks added 15.
Butler entered the game in a 9-for-34 shooting slump before making 7 of 16 shots.
“I definitely wanted to win on my senior night against a good team like them,” Butler said. “When I was taken out at the end of the game, it just kind of hit me, like I’m not playing here anymore and it just took off from there.”
Butler doesn’t have pleasant memories of his lone road game against Villanova, as he scored 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting in a 78-56 loss Feb. 20, 2008.