Oct. 23, 2012
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Just one week ago, Villanova was riding a seven game unbeaten streak and enjoying the best start in school history. When it heads up the New Jersey Turnpike on Wednesday to face Rutgers at 7:00 it finds itself very much in need of a victory and the three points that would go a long ways toward securing a berth in the BIG EAST playoffs, which begin next week.
"It's an indication of just how tough the BIG EAST is," says Tom Carlin, whose Wildcats bring a 10-4-2 overall mark into Wednesday night's match.
After a pair of tight losses last week to the two teams above it in the Red Division, Syracuse and Louisville, the `Cats have a 2-2-2 record in the conference for eight points. They need additional points in their two remaining games against the Scarlet Knights and Pittsburgh to lock up their sixth consecutive appearance in the BIG EAST playoffs.
"The mindset definitely changes," notes Carlin. "There is a scenario out there that if we don't play well and some other things happen, we end up out of the playoffs. So there is a sense of urgency for us. We have to understand that if you want to be a playoff team and an NCAA Tournament team, you have to win late-season games. That's what good teams do.
"The good part for us is that this is stuff we have been talking about all year. We control our own destiny to the three seed, which would be the highest seed the program has had."
With victories in both of its final two games, Villanova can secure the No. 3 position in the Red Division and the bye into the BIG EAST quarterfinal that comes with it. First round and quarterfinal games in the conference playoffs will be held on campus sites with the semifinal and final set for Nov. 9-11 at Red Bull Arena in Newark, N.J.
Rutgers has battled the same type of injury epidemic that Villanova battled in 2011. It is 6-6-1 overall but 5-1 at home thus far. The Scarlet Knights are 2-3-1 for seven points, one point behind the Wildcats with one fewer league game remaining.
"They have a couple of players in Mael Corboz and Kene Eza who are very dangerous," Carlin states. "There is no one faster on the field than Corboz. He creates chances and set pieces for them with his quickness.
"They have lost some key guys and had to mix and match more than they probably would have liked. But when you watch them on tape, you see they are a good team."
The Scarlet Knights come in after having dropped decisions last week to St. John's and Cincinnati. Five of their defeats have come at the hands of nationally ranked opponents.
Rutgers needs a victory and some help to reach the BIG EAST playoffs.
"They'll be a desperate team," states Carlin. "The point we've made to our guys is that, yes, they are a desperate team, but so are we. We spelled out all the scenarios for them. It changes the whole dynamic of the game."
The match kicks off at 7:00 p.m. at Yurcak Field.