(CBS Philly)- CBS Sports Network will see two of the three top men’s basketball teams take to the court on their air this week. First, on Wednesday night, the #3 Villanova Wildcats face the St. John’s Red Storm. Then, on Thursday, undefeated #1 Gonzaga takes on conference foe Pacific.
For Jay Wright and Villanova, the 2020-21 men’s basketball season has been an exercise in adaptability. After getting out to an 8-1 start in their first nine games, they were able to play just two games between December 23rd and this past Saturday due to pauses in basketball activities caused by COVID-19.
Despite those periods away from the court and much more limited practice time than would occur during a normal season, the Wildcats, following Saturday’s 80-72 win over Seton Hall, are 11-1 and have won nine straight games entering Wednesday night’s battle with the St. John’s Red Storm at Carnesecca Arena on CBS Sports Network.
CBS Sports college basketball insider Jon Rothstein points to the continual development of basketball habits that Wright’s program has instilled over time which has allowed the Wildcats to maintain their consistent play despite inconsistent time together.
“Villanova develops habits as well as any program in college basketball. I’ve just noticed that being around that program the last 10 or 15 years. I think what they do habitually is going to resonate even if the team isn’t together for an extended period of time,” said Rothstein. “And, look, they’re a team that with the exception of the game against Virginia Tech, has been undefeated this season. They only have one loss. I know a lot of the focus of college basketball has been pointed towards Baylor and Gonzaga. That’s obviously for good reason but Villanova deserves to be mentioned in that class too.”
The Wildcats are far from the only top team to deal with pauses, postponements and cancellations this season. Nearly every program in the country has. But, they’ve found a way to continue winning and are setting themselves up to be in that elite tier with Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan and others come tournament time.
“They’re right in that class. When you think about what the NCAA Tournament bracket would look like if it came out today, Villanova would be one of the four number one seeds,” said Rothstein. “To me, they’re a team that has one loss but they’re somewhat under-the-radar nationally when you look at their potential. It reminds me a little bit of what they were in 2016 when they won their first national title under Jay Wright.”
Before the team can focus on any tournament aspirations, they will have a test against St. John’s on Wednesday on CBS Sports Network. The Red Storm (11-7; 5-6 Big East) have won four straight games and five of their last six to put themselves in the thick of the pack in the conference.
The Wildcats hope to continue their run and keep pace with Gonzaga which has been perfect thus far. At 17-0, the Bulldogs are tied for the best record in the country to this point with the team right behind them in the rankings, the #2 Baylor Bears.
The Bulldogs lead the nation in scoring at 94.3 points per game and are second in Ken Pom’s offensive rating (124.7). Led by forwards Corey Kispert (20.7 PPG) and Drew Timme (18.7 PPG), they have dominated opponents this season winning games by an average of nearly 20 points. The last time out against Pacific, they controlled the game from the outset, jumping out to a 52-21 lead at the halftime break.
With just seven games left to play this season, the Bulldogs are closing in on the possibility of a perfect regular season.
For college basketball fans preparing for the NCAA Tournament in March, there’s opportunities to catch two of the nation’s top teams on CBS Sports Network this week.