After Saturday’s loss to 10th ranked Marquette in Milwaukee, Villanova and college basketball fans should have two main takeaways. The first takeaway is that Markus Howard is a thrilling offensive machine that is justly in the Player of the Year debate, and his performance Saturday may have thrust him into the top slot.

The second takeaway is that Villanova is simply not the class of the Big East as has been the custom for the past couple years, despite the hotly contested showdown between the top two Big East teams. Below are the current Big East standings:

I know what you are thinking: Villanova is clearly on top of the Big East with Marquette right behind. The Wildcats should cut out the bottom eight teams because the Big East is currently a two team race, and Marquette won the first battle.

What does that mean for Villanova going forward? The pressure is on Villanova to stay lockstep with Marquette in the win-loss columns. Marquette may drop a game or so against the other Big East teams, but the Wildcats will need to take care of business for the remainder of the regular season.

Though the team improved significantly as players both young and old grew into their new roles, Villanova struggles with the hallmarks of an inexperienced team. The team finds trouble maintaining consistent production of both the offensive and defensive ends due to the dependence on veterans Phil Booth and Eric Paschall. In addition to that, the offense relies on a heavy dose of 3-pointers; they shoot 30 3-point attempts a game, which ranks 10th in the country. The defensive production indicates the youth and inexperience of the team. However, increasingly positive contributions from Saddiq Bey, Jermaine Samuels, and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree show that the team is growing and should continue to do so.

As we approach the Big East tournament, the hope that the Wildcats’ performance will reach its fullest form in February and March is not only comforting, but necessary. Before the Big East tournament though, there is one key date. On February 27th, Villanova will host the Marquette Golden Eagles at the Finneran Pavilion for possibly the most important game of the year. Last Saturday, the matchup between these two teams was perhaps the best college basketball game this season. Let’s just hope the next matchup equals the prior one: a thriller ending with the home team on top.

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