- In a nightmarish week for the Villanova Wildcats and head coach Jay Wright, the Michigan Wolverines came to the Pavillion and avenged their 2018 national championship loss to the tune of a 27-point blowout before Villanova lost a 76-68 overtime decision to the Furman Paladins Saturday night.
- The Wildcats subsequently fell out of the AP Top 25 Poll for the first time since 2013.
- With no other perennial college basketball powerhouses in the conference, the Big East lost all of its representation in the rankings for the first time since January 26, 1982.
In the world of college basketball, blue blood programs have long reigned supreme. In recent years, however, the Villanova Wildcats encroached on that space, winning two national championships in three years and ranking amongst the top programs week after week for the last few years.
But Villanova’s continued dominance may finally be coming to an end.
In a nightmarish week for the Wildcats and head coach Jay Wright, the Michigan Wolverines came to the Pavillion and avenged their 2018 national championship loss to the tune of a 27-point blowout before Villanova lost a 76-68 overtime decision to the Furman Paladins Saturday night.
The Wildcats – who were ranked eighth in the nation heading into those two contests – dropped out of the AP Top 25 Poll for the first time since 2013. They will cross paths with No. 2 Kansas on December 15, but the Jayhawks are the only currently ranked opponent on Villanova’s schedule for the remainder of the regular season. If the Wildcats fail to secure a statement win against Kansas, they almost certainly would struggle to climb back into the rankings.
Not only is this a troubling sign for one of the most dominant college basketball programs in recent history, but it also spells trouble for the Big East Conference. The quality of competition in the conference dropped considerably when Connecticut, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh left in 2013 and once again when Louisville departed for the ACC the following year.
The conference has since leaned heavily on the Wildcats for relevance in the college basketball sphere. But with Villanova’s abrupt exit from the rankings, the Big East is without representation in the AP Top 25 Poll for the first time since January 26, 1982.
For the past four seasons, the Wildcats were the only team in the conference to remain ranked throughout an entire season. Other programs have had moments of greatness during those spans – most notably Xavier during the 2017-18 and 2015-16 seasons – but none have enjoyed the prolonged success that Villanova has enjoyed.
The Big East has relied on its basketball prowess as its saving grace as many of its longtime members have fled for greener pastures – read: more money – in conferences that also boast strong football networks. But without the Wildcats’ success, the Big East conference is rendered virtually irrelevant in the world of college basketball, especially when compared to powerhouse conferences like the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, and Big 12.
If Villanova’s matchup against the Jayhawks goes south, the Big East’s best hope lies with Mike Krzyzewski disciple Steve Wojciechowski and the Marquette Golden Eagles. They also fell out of the rankings last week after losing on the road to the Indiana Hoosiers, but they will have the opportunity to prove themselves and catapult back into the rankings with a win against any of the four ranked opponents they will face before the new year.
Still, the precarious state of today’s Big East is a far, far cry from the conference that boasted grudge matches between Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin in the mid-1980s. If the Big East wants to return to its former glory in the basketball arena, the path back will undoubtedly run through Villanova.