For the second time in less than a month, the Villanova Wildcats are stuck wondering what went wrong against a Creighton team that manhandled them from start to finish.
Less than a month after getting destroyed at home by the outside shooting of the Big East leaders, the Wildcats fell victim to the play of Doug McDermott in their 101-80 loss on Sunday in Omaha.
Now that the second loss of Big East play is in the books, Villanova must try to regain focus and head into March with a head of steam instead of dropping off and stumbling into the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
The best news possible for the Wildcats about their stretch run of six games is that four of those contests will be at home, with road trips to Providence and Xavier mixed in.
Jay Wright's team has one of the best home-court advantages on the Eastern seaboard, and his Wildcats will have to use that in their favor to lock up the No. 2 seed in the Big East tournament as well as a potential high seed in the Big Dance.
But just how exactly the Wildcats will respond to the second deflating knockout punch delivered by Creighton remains to be seen.
After each of its two previous losses this season, Villanova went into overtime and pulled out gritty victories against Butler and Marquette.
The overtime wins were the best thing to happen to the Wildcats, because they made them test just how much resolve they had left in their tanks, and in both cases, the response was a positive one.
Now, with a trip to Providence on the horizon on Tuesday, Villanova must avoid falling into its seasonal trend since the Friars are no slouch and could easily pull off an upset.
You don't have to look far down the schedule to see what Ed Cooley's team is capable of as it took down Creighton at the Dunkin' Donuts Center two days before the Bluejays thrashed Villanova at the Wells Fargo Center.
Helping the Wildcats get over the hump will be the veteran experience they possess in the form of Wright and James Bell.
Wright has always been known to get the most out of his roster, no matter what the talent level on it is, and he will do his best to get his young team prepared to make a run into March.
Bell's importance to the team comes on the court because of his role in the scoring and intangibles departments.
The senior guard averages a team-high 16.1 points per game and is one of the team's top assets on the defensive end of the ball.
Bell must bring everything and then some to the court on Tuesday to help propel his team to its 23rd win of the season.
While he is not the only player who must do well in order to beat the Friars, Bell's contributions are key because the team responds well when he gets going from the field.
The Wildcats must also play with a chip on their shoulder, something Creighton has done magnificently this season, in their final six regular-season games.
With three big losses on its resume, Villanova will have an uphill climb to gain a high seed in the NCAA tournament. Yet if it wins in dominant fashion in its final six games, it will give the selection committee something to talk about when the field of 68 is chosen on March 16.
In all honesty, the only way that Villanova will change its national perception is by beating Creighton in the Big East Tournament final, a task that can only be achieved if the team blazes through the rest of its conference schedule with the killer instinct that it lacked in two previous matchups against the Bluejays.
If everything falls in their favor, the Wildcats could head into March as a dangerous team that no one wants to play because of their personnel and the momentum they are carrying, but that is all dependent on how they respond starting on Tuesday in Providence.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.
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