Villanova basketball finalized its entire 2014-15 schedule on Thursday, with the release of the conference schedule, and despite a couple difficult non-conference games it's one that is very favorable for a team that is trying to repeat as regular season conference champions.
The non-conference schedule this season for the Wildcats seems like a step up from last season. Villanova is involved in two national events, the Legends Classic in Brooklyn and the Jimmy V Classic, to go along with the annual Philadelphia Big Five Games.
In the late Nov. Legends Classic , 'Nova will play two regional games against UMES and Bucknell. Then, in the championship round, the Wildcats will open up against VCU and then take on either Oregon or Michigan, all three of whom made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament last season.
At the Jimmy V Classic on Dec. 9, Jay Wright's squad will face off against an Illinois team that returns many contributors from last season.
On top of these two classics, Villanova has a chance for redemption on Dec. 20 in a saturday matinee showdown against the Syracuse Orange. Last year, Syracuse was the team that handed 'Nova its first loss of the season.
After what seems to be a grueling non-conference schedule ends on Dec. 23, the Cats get an eight day break before they dive into Big East.
The Wildcats open conference with a very favorable four game stretch that includes games against the three worst teams in the conference last season.
The Cats' first conference game of the season takes place against Butler on New Year's Eve, as part of the Big East's NYE Marathon. Jay Wright and Co. then embark on a two-game road trip to face off against Seton Hall and St. John's. Then, to cap off the opening four game start to the conference season, they welcome the DePaul Demons to the Pavilion.
Realistically, Villanova should begin the conference slate 4-0, but then comes probably the most important stretch of games when it comes to repeating.
After DePaul, 'Nova plays six games that could make or break its conference championship run, as the Wildcats take on four teams (Creighton, Xavier, Marquette and Georgetown twice) that should finish near the top of the conference standings.
The positive part of this stretch is the abundance of home games over that time. Four of the six games are home contests, with two back-to-back key ones against Marquette (Feb. 4) and Georgetown (Feb. 7) happening at the Wells Fargo Arena. Plus, one of the two away games is against a DePaul team that has lost eight straight match ups against the Cats.
If 'Nova can escape those six games relatively unscathed (with one loss or less) the team will be in very good shape heading into the last eight games of the season.
While the last eight contests don't form the most difficult gauntlet on the schedule, the Wildcats cannot relax, or else risk a crash and burn going into the postseason.
The most dangerous part of the last eight for Villanova is that it consists of five road games. In order to clinch the conference, it seems as if the reigning regular season champions must win at least four of five on the road at Providence, Butler, Marquette, Xavier and Creighton. Also mixed into the equation are three home games including Seton Hall, St. Johns and Providence.
Like I said before, I don't think this conference schedule is necessarily what I would call challenging. On paper Villanova is the best team in the conference this upcoming season, and I think with the exception of some stumbles against a Georgetown or a Providence, the Cats should cruise through the conference slate.
2014-15 Villanova Regular Season Prediction: 26-5