Big East: Do Villanova and Providence Have Enough to Make NCAA Tournament?

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 16, 2013

Feb 16, 2013; Providence, RI, USA; Providence Friars forward Kadeem Batts (10) celebrates against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the first half at Dunkin' Donuts Center.  Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Do not look now, but the Big East standings are beginning to get quite crowded from spots one to 11 after wins on Saturday by Villanova and Providence. 

The Wildcats and Friars went into Saturday's games against UConn and Notre Dame respectively in need of a win to keep themselves in the talk for an at-large bid to the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament. 

After the dust settled in Hartford and Providence, the Big East bubble picture got cloudier than it was going into the weekend.

Villanova lost on the road to Cincinnati on Wednesday and they were in danger of falling off of the bubble with a loss to UConn on Saturday.

The Wildcats did not let that happen and stormed into Hartford to earn a 70-61 victory. 

Jay Wright's team already has a resume that includes wins over Louisville and Syracuse, who were both ranked in the top five at the time of those games. 

After the two wins over top-five teams, the Wildcats resume is lacking anything impressive.

The Wildcats have plenty of room to improve on that resume in the final three weeks of the season with Marquette and Georgetown visiting Philadelphia and a road trip to Pittsburgh before the regular season ends. 

Not only do the Wildcats have at least one of those three games, they have to hope that the Friars cool off at some point. 

After a dismal start to conference play, the Friars are now 6-7 in Big East play and they have a very good shot at winning 10 games in the conference.

While the most impressive win on the Providence resume came on Saturday at home against Notre Dame, they have a key statistic that could place them over Villanova when Selection Sunday rolls around. 

In two meetings this season, Providence defeated Villanova on both occasions by a combined six points. 

If the two teams go head-to-head for a spot in the final 68, it would be hard to argue against taking the Friars over the Wildcats based on the head-to-head record. 

Another factor that favors Providence greatly is their remaining schedule. 

After Wednesday's trip to the Carrier Dome to play Syracuse, the Friars will play a fairly easy schedule that includes the likes of Rutgers, Seton Hall, UConn and St. John's. 

Compared to Villanova's schedule to end the season, which includes three ranked opponents, Rutgers and Seton Hall, an objective outsider would give the Friars a better chance of making the tournament. 

Yet another factor that could play in the favor of Ed Cooley's Friars is that the selection committee does take a look into how a team performs in their final 10 games of the season.

The Friars have now won their last four games and they have a chance of winning every one of their final five games, except for the one at Syracuse. 

The Wildcats are 3-1 in the last four games but as mentioned above, their schedule gets difficult during the stretch run of the Big East schedule. 

If the Friars control their streaky play and win a game or two in the Big East Tournament, they could easily vault themselves over Villanova on the bubble.

For Villanova to erase any whispers about the Friars making the final 68, they will need to pull of an upset of a ranked team at home, finish with 10 Big East wins and go further than Providence in the conference tournament.

Even if all of the hypothetical scenarios play out in favor of both teams, they will still have to sweat it out on Selection Sunday with all of the other bubble teams to see if they did enough to make into the final 68. 

What do you think of the chances of Villanova and Providence to make the NCAA Tournament?

Comment below or leave me a comment on Twitter, @JTansey90.