On Wednesday night on FS1, something happened that hasn’t occurred since Mar. 12, 2016: The Villanova Wildcats lost a basketball game. After a 10-month stretch that included a 20-game win streak, a turn of the calendar, oh, and a national championship, the Wildcats fell 66-58 to No. 18 Butler on the road.
But while the loss is sure to shake up the polls, we’re going to be blunt here for a second: It really doesn’t mean all that much in the grand scheme for Villanova. This is still one of the best teams in college basketball, and a club that is absolutely capable of winning a second straight national championship.
There’s no need to worry if you’re a Villanova fan. Here are five reasons why.
Josh Hart played by far his worst game of the year
Unfortunately for Villanova, he picked a bad night to have his worst game of the year. Plagued with foul trouble, Hart never seemed to get into a rhythm Wednesday night: He finished with just 13 points on a miserable 3 of 11 shooting performance on the evening.
Villanova isn’t going to win games — especially against Top 20 teams on the road — when Hart plays that poorly. Fortunately for the Wildcats, it’s rare that he ever does.
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Villanova as a team played its worst game of the year
Obviously lots of credit needs to go to Chris Holtmann and Butler, who were simply the better team on Wednesday night. They deserved to win this game. But at the same time, no one on Villanova’s roster (outside of another solid performance from Jalen Brunson) played anywhere close to their capabilities.
In addition to Hart, last year’s Final Four hero Kris Jenkins also struggled, hitting just 4 of 11 from the field and 3 of 9 from three, while fellow starters Darryl Reynolds and Mikal Bridges combined for five points total. Add in the fact that ‘Nova shot just 37 percent from the field (they shot 50 percent as a team coming in), and made just 23 percent from beyond the arc (when they normally make around 38 percent) and it was a night to forget for the entire team.
This was a letdown game
While most of the sports world was focused on the College Football Playoff on Saturday afternoon, Villanova played one of the most anticipated games of the season when they faced No. 10 Creighton in Omaha. And the Wildcats picked up one of the most impressive victories any college basketball team has all season while there — holding a Blue Jays club which averaged 90 coming into the game to just 70 in an 80-70 victory.
After an emotional, gutty win on the road against a Top 10 team, it's easy to see why the Wildcats had a bit of a letdown on Wednesday — it’s tough for any team to go back on the road just 72 hours later against another really good club.
An upset was bound to happen.
Butler is darn good
Sure, most of the headlines on Thursday morning will be about No. 1 going down. But let’s not forget that Villanova didn’t exactly lose to a Big East bottom-dweller. Butler is a good team, fully capable of making a deep run in the tournament. There aren’t very many teams that are better than the Bulldogs — especially when they're at home.
The Bulldogs already beat three teams out of conference which were ranked in the Top 25 when they played them — Arizona, Indiana and Cincinnati — and have also picked up a handful of other quality wins against Utah, Vanderbilt and a really good Providence club over the weekend.
This might look like an “upset” on paper. But the Bulldogs are very deserving of their Top 15 ranking.
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It’s only January
Honestly we doubt ‘Nova fans are too worried about the loss. But for the minority that might be, let’s take a step back and quote the great philosopher Aaron Rodgers: “R-E-L-A-X.” The Wildcats weren’t going to finish the year undefeated, and there are a lot worse places to lose than at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
If anything, this loss allows ‘Nova to get a taste of their own blood, regroup and get ready for the heart of conference play. Wins at Purdue, Creighton and against Notre Dame on a neutral court prove they can play with anybody in the sport, and that this is just a blip on the radar in the big picture.
Villanova will be just fine. Even if they did just suffer their first loss since March 2016.