1. Villanova Wildcats (24-2, 11-2, last week: same)
Every week there was the same narrative about Villanova: they're GOOD, but are they ELITE? After last week's memorable matchup with Butler, it's time the 'Cats fall under that elite category. Darrun Hilliard had the best game of his career with 31 points and eight 3s, both career highs, including the game-winning triple with 1.5 seconds left to push Nova over the Bulldogs. A home tilt against Providence and a trip to the Cintas Center are the toughest games left on the regular season schedule for Villanova, who should coast to a number one seed in the Big East tournament.
2. Butler Bulldogs (19-7, 9-4, last week: 3)
The Bulldogs became a lock for the tourney after coming within seconds of stunning Villanova at Hinkle in an instant classic last Saturday. Creighton gave them a scare at CenturyLink, but Roosevelt Jones, the guy Butler missed badly in their free fall last season, banked in the game winner to avoid the upset. There are still a few tough games left on the schedule, including a road test this Saturday at Xavier, but last weekend's close-but-no-cigar defeat at the hands of one of the nation's elite should be enough to get the Dogs into March Madness.
3. Providence Friars (19-8, 9-5, last week: 4)
The Friars took care of business against Seton Hall and DePaul last week, but there's still two marquee bouts left on the schedule, starting next week at Villanova. PC kept the Wildcats close in their first meeting last Wednesday before Nova pulled away in the second half. Providence is not a lock yet, realistically they'll be dancing mid-March. But a victory over the Wildcats should all but settle it. Then the question turns to whether PC has some magic left over from last year's tournament run to repeat as Big East champs.
4. Georgetown Hoyas (17-8, 9-5, last week: 2)
Georgetown rounds out the four teams we should see in the Big Dance one month from now, with a solid resume highlighted by wins over Villanova and Indiana and good losses to Wisconsin and Kansas. The Hoyas took a good St. John's team and dismantled them en route to a 22-point home win, a statement to the selection committee that Georgetown belongs in the NCAA Tournament. Six players finished in double figures, including another standout game by Isaac Copeland with 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots, and shut down the St. John's offense over the final 8:45 of the first half.
5. St. John's Red Storm (17-9, 6-7, last week: 8)
The Georgetown loss was tough, but St. John's victory over Xavier last Saturday was an important one. With a rematch with the Hoyas and Villanova coming up, a win at the Cintas Center, a notoriously tough environment to play in, let alone come away with a W, gives St. John's a good win on their resume as they hover around the .500 mark in conference. A rematch with free-falling Seton Hall should keep the Johnnies on a winning path, but they'll need a win over Georgetown or Villanova, or at least a strong performance, to stop their bubble from bursting.
6. Xavier Musketeers (17-10, 7-7, last week: 5)
Xavier got a big road win Wednesday, winning the annual battle for Cincinnati on the Bearcats' home floor. Trevon Bluiett was quiet in 12 minutes, but got his only points of the game when they mattered most, getting two free throws to fall to save Xavier after allowing a 12-point lead to evaporate. The Muskies, the leader of the middle of the pack in the conference, adds a strong win to their resume that could help lift them off the bubble on Selection Sunday, but there's still work to be done. Home games against Villanova and Butler could make X a tournament team or make their climb a tad bit tougher
7. DePaul Blue Demons (12-15, 6-8, last week: 6)
Here's the part of the year where the glass slipper's long gone from Cinderella's shoe and she's back to being ridiculed by her much hotter stepsisters. The Blue Demons have lost six of their last seven after last night's blowout loss to Providence. Even if they don't win another game this season this should be seen as a successful year for DePaul. They doubled up on conference wins and key cogs in the lineup have shown strong signs of development. The road to the finish line will offer some great experience for the Demons as they keep building towards a return to respectability.
8. Seton Hall Pirates (15-11, 5-9, last week: 7)
It's official: Seton Hall is a dumpster fire. Everything was all good when the Pirates started the season 12-2, capped by a major upset of Villanova back on January 3rd. Since then Seton Hall is 3-9 and has played its way out of the 68-team field. Reports of racial tension may or may not have led Jaren Sina to leave the team last week, and frustrations finally boiled over for Sterling Gibbs after striking Villanova's Ryan Arcidiacono with an elbow that would've scored him some nice points if this was UFC. But it's not, and Gibbs will set for two games, meaning the five-game losing streak for the Hall could continue when they face New York rival St. John's on Saturday.
t9. Marquette Golden Eagles (11-14, 3-10, last week: same)
Duane Wilson finished with 26 points in Marquette's loss last Saturday to Creighton. The Golden Eagles could use that same output this weekend if they want to shock Villanova. Looking at the recruiting trail, the team released four-star guard Nick Noskowiak from his LOI last week, leaving MU with four open scholarships for next year. 247 Sports predicts three-star forward Sacar Anim will head to Milwaukee, and Adam Zagoria reports MU offered guard Traci Carter a scholarshipwithin the last few weeks.
t9. Creighton Bluejays (12-15, 3-11, last week: 10)
It's been a good couple of weeks for the Bluejays, who took Butler to the limit days after defeating Marquette at home. Devin Brooks and Austin Chatman scored 17 apiece, and Chatman kept Butler's Kellen Dunham at bay in the second half, allowing only six points in the final frame. They have yet another week-long break before they head to DePaul, then they have another winnable road game coming up at Seton Hall.