The Barnes way, and the Wright way

If there were one coach that Jay Wright might be calling for advice today, it’s Rick Barnes.

Really?

Well, we all remember last year’s Texas free fall. Number one in the nation, and all that, and losing so many games after mid-January. At that point in the season last year, Texas had gone 17-0, and then won only five of its following 12 games. They split a pair in the last week, then another at the conference tournament, and bailed out of the NCAA in the first round.

Take a look at what Villanova has done this season. Were it not for a loss to Tennessee in the final of the Preseason NIT, the Wildcats would have started the season 17-0. Even at 16-1, they were ranked seventh in the nation, and we know how competitive it has been at the top of the rankings this year. But since then, at the same point that Texas was undefeated last year, the Wildcats, in their last 12 games, have won… five. They lost their last two Big East home games to Syracuse and St. John’s last week, and play tonight at second-place Notre Dame, just ahead of Texas’s game against Kansas State. And they finish at first-place Pitt on Saturday. Good luck on that.

If you’ve heard anything about this before now, you’re ahead of me. Villanova currently is ranked 14th and 15th in the major polls, while Texas ranked 21st in the comparable week last season, and was about to drop to the bottom of the list, or just out, following a loss at A&M. We’ll see if Villanova drops out of the polls tomorrow.

You might say, but Villanova plays in the Big East and has a much more difficult schedule. Well, Texas lost to four ranked teams by this point in its slide. Villanova has lost to five. Texas didn’t beat a ranked team after December, but Villanova beat only one as it headed downhill. That was No. 3 Syracuse, which had just started a 6-of-8 loss streak that pushed it down to No. 20 when the Orange won on Monday in Philly.

Is there a lesson here? Perhaps not – this isn’t a matter of schadenfreude, or any sort of comment on Wright’s leadership, although I’ll certainly be looking a lot closer at Villanova the rest of the way. But if there is, it appears that Texas’s mistake in falling apart last year was making No. 1 before doing it.

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