Villanova set for tough test at Butler

Ed Benkin
February 05, 2020 - 8:43 am
Villanova Wildcats

Ed Benkin/KYW Newsrdaio


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Big East is not for the squeamish this season.

The conference is strong from top to bottom, and there are no easy games on the schedule. Last Saturday, the three Big East teams ranked in the Top 25 all lost at home to conference foes. One of those teams was Villanova, which fell to Creighton at the Center last weekend. It won't get any easier for the Wildcats this week as they play at 19th-ranked Butler on Wednesday night. Villanova is 17-4 overall and 7-2 in conference play. 

Head coach Jay Wright is hopeful Saturday's defeat isn't the start of a losing streak in one of the most competitive conferences in the country.

"We said there were going to be days like this," said Wright. "You can't let them build up where you're going to have a bad day and a bad day and get down about a loss. You have to recover. Butler had a little run like this, and they've recovered really well."

Butler was on that losing streak when Villanova added to its misery. The Wildcats defeated the Bulldogs, 76-61, last month on the Main Line. However, Wednesday night's game will be on Butler's home court, and Wright knows there is a huge difference playing at home and dealing with the atmosphere of Hinkle Fieldhouse.

"Hinkle Fieldhouse is a totally different experience," Wright said. "Everything is different there. The noise. The feel. How Butler plays. They got a lot of open shots here that we're trying to shore up, but they make those shots at Hinkle."

No one in the Big East has a losing record. Five teams appear to be locks for the NCAA Tournament, and at least two others could also get in on Selection Sunday. That makes every game difficult for Collin Gillespie and his teammates, especially when Villanova is the three-time conference champion.

"Every game in the Big East is tough this year," said Gillespie. "It is pretty much every year. We've got a target on our backs every time we go somewhere. Teams are going to compete and be physical with us. They're going to be tough and we just have to play Villanova Basketball and do what we do."

Villanova is playing with a much younger lineup this year and this matchup with Butler will prove to be a valuable learning experience no matter what the result. At 17-4, the Wildcats are in an excellent position at this point of the season. However, Wright knows his team must continue to improve as they prepare for a difficult test in Indianapolis.

"I'm happy with how they've progressed," Wright said. "I realize we have to get a lot better. We're certainly not like one of our experienced teams have been at this point of the year, but I still see a lot of upside for this team because they're so inexperienced. Every time we play somebody a second time, we're learning even more. I'm happy with their development, but we have a lot of room for growth."