Last Thursday, the ‘Cats were in the driver’s seat heading into the Big East semifinal match against Butler. However, after a heartbreaking loss in the 1o6th minute of play, destiny is now in the fate of others.
It was a semifinal nail bitter against two evenly matched teams, with Villanova and Butler having 12 and 11 shots on goal, respectively. In times like these, it’s a matter of which team is going to make a play that will decide the game.
In the final 14 minutes of regulation, Villanova had its opportunities. Its last good chance came with just under six minutes to go, with captain Zach Zandi releasing a shot on target from the top of the 18-yard box. It was saved by Butler’s goalkeeper Eric Dick.
Some might say fatigue got the best of them, and if Villanova could’ve found an extra gear, results would have been different. With seven minutes to go, if Padraic McCullaugh completes the through ball to Miguel Polley with proper pace, one can only imagine what could have transpired in a potential breakaway with the team’s leading scorer.
The Wildcats could not find a break and in a shockingly familiar sequence of events, ‘Nova gave up a goal in the second overtime off of a header by Butler’s standout forward, David Goldsmith. It was the same play, same player, and same overtime period as the last time Butler stunned Villanova in a 3-2 double overtime win on Sept. 17. After losing in a strikingly identical fashion, the ‘Cats are left wondering how hopeful an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament is looking.
For Villanova to receive an at-large bid, a generous gift from God needs to be bestowed on this Main Line team desperately hoping for a second chance. The tournament is comprised of 48 teams, 24 of which come from automatic bids given to conference winners. The remaining 24 spots are at-large selections by the NCAA committee, which are heavily influenced by the next 24 highest team’s RPIs.
Currently, Villanova has put together a somewhat impressive resume and is currently No. 38 in the NCAA RPI rankings. As of right now, eight teams with a higher RPI than Villanova have clinched an automatic bid by winning their conference title: Maryland (2), Wake Forest (4), Denver (12), Albany (15), Dartmouth (27), Creighton (31), Akron (36), FGCU (37).
On a positive note, the selection committee says to consider multiple factors when granting at-large bids. In that spirit, ‘Nova upsetting top 25 teams such as Delaware (22), Boston College (6), and eventual Big East champion Creighton (10) in the regular season can only help their case.
No one will know for sure until Monday at 10 a.m., but with so many upsets happening in conference tournaments and only eight teams with higher RPIs clinching automatic bids, it appears to be a long shot for Villanova to qualify for the NCAA tournament.