Villanova Basketball

Villanova Basketball: Are Wildcats the Real Big East Favorites?

Nov 29, 2013; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; Villanova Wildcats guard Darrun Hilliard (4) blows kisses to fans after the victory over the Kansas Jayhawks at the 2013 Battle 4 Atlantis in the Imperial Arena at the Atlantis Resort. Villanova won 63-59. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistDecember 4, 2013

The Villanova Wildcats have been one of the most pleasant surprises in the first month of college basketball, and they are starting to get some respect on the national level.

The Wildcats surged into the AP Top 25 this week at No. 14 after defeating Kansas and Iowa at the Battle 4 Atlantis.

With a 7-0 record, the Wildcats are the lone unbeaten in the Big East, and they could be the newly crowned favorites to win the reshaped conference this season.

During the first month of the season, Jay Wright's Wildcats have jelled together perfectly and risen to the top of the conference standings while the preseason favorites have slipped up during their nonconference slates.

Nov 29, 2013; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; Villanova Wildcats guard Dylan Ennis (31) celebrates the victory over the Kansas Jayhawks at the 2013 Battle 4 Atlantis in the Imperial Arena at the Atlantis Resort. Villanova won 63-59. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jair
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The perfect example of a favorite falling early is Marquette, which was the preseason pick to win the Big East. 

The Golden Eagles have already dropped three games to Ohio State, Arizona State and San Diego State, and they could easily lose more games before January with Wisconsin and New Mexico still on the out-of-conference schedule.

Buzz Williams' team is expected to climb back to prominence during the conference season, but for now, a few doubts about Marquette have been left in the minds of outside observers.

The team picked to finish second in the Big East, Creighton, got off to a strong start with five consecutive wins, but the Bluejays failed to impress at the Wooden Legacy by losing to San Diego State and George Washington out in California on a neutral court.

There is no doubt that the Bluejays, powered by Doug McDermott, will contend in the Big East, but they could prove to be a very beatable team on the road or at a neutral site, as the games at the Wooden Legacy proved.

Not even preseason third-place team Georgetown could avoid an upset early this season. The Hoyas dropped a game to Northeastern at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

With those three teams not passing the eye test, Villanova has gladly snatched the attention away from the Golden Eagles, Bluejays and Hoyas.

What is even more scary about the terrific start of the Wildcats is that they are just starting to blossom into a well-oiled unit.

The reason for that is the return of guard Dylan Ennis, who missed the first few weeks of the season with a wrist injury.

In his Wildcats debut over Thanksgiving weekend, the transfer from Rice scored 14 points against USC and the same amount in the upset of then-No. 2 Kansas.

With experienced players like James Bell and Darrun Hilliard getting off to fantastic starts in the first seven games, Ennis was able to slot into the lineup off the bench and become the final piece to the puzzle. 

If that isn't enough productive talent to get you excited, the Wildcats also have Ryan Arcidiacono beginning to get hot after his game-winning three against Kansas on Friday. 

Wright has also been able to mix in two of his freshmen, Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart, and start to turn them into key contributors off the bench. 

With a very strong mix of players at his disposal, Wright is putting together the perfect formula to win the Big East after a down year last season. 

As they head into the month of December with a full head of steam and two wins over ranked teams behind them, there is no doubt the Wildcats have cemented their place as a contender on the national stage and as the favorite to win the Big East for now. 


Follow me on Twitter, @JTansey90. 

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