But aside from a game against Penn, Villanova will be in the rugged Big East the rest of the way. The Wildcats today would be almost a lock for an at-large bid, which may be their only hope. The odds they could win an automatic bid in a conference dominated by national powers such as UConn (which visits Saturday afternoon), Notre Dame, and Rutgers are slim.
The Big East will continue to provide juice to Villanova's computer rankings, but coach Harry Perretta's squad, picked for 12th in the 16-team league, will have to finish in the middle of the conference to land a bid.
If Drexel (78 RPI, 30 strength of schedule index) makes a strong run in the Colonial Athletic Association, the Dragons could be in play for an at-large bid, even if they can't find a way past favored Delaware, which, believe it or not, is the national RPI leader at 1. Credit Delaware's Elena Delle Donne for that development.
St. Joseph's hasn't been to the NCAA tourney since 2000, but this might be the year. The Hawks will host the Atlantic Ten tournament, which is more wide open now that graduations and transfers have devalued defending champion Xavier.
The Hawks have a major conference game Tuesday morning, hosting co-favorite Dayton.
St. Joseph's (RPI 37, SOS 62) is on the bubble right now, but a strong A-10 run could catch the eyes of the committee.
That's what Temple did last season after a strong nonconference schedule that did not leave them with a lot of wins until they began A-10 competition.
The Owls, winners over Richmond at the buzzer Saturday, are in the same boat this time around. The RPI has gained ground at 68 and the SOS at 23 has value. But at 7-7, they need to continue their run Wednesday night when St. Bonaventure visits.
La Salle (125 RPI, 76 SOS) needs to win the Atlantic Ten and get an automatic bid. Likewise for Penn (134 RPI, 78 SOS) in the Ivy League, though Princeton will be tough to beat.
Less is more
Drexel coach Denise Dillon believes a little less court time could be beneficial for her senior star Kamile Nacickaite, who had 19 points in Sunday's win over Towson and is averaging 17.8 points per game.
"We have confidence in our bench, so if we can give Kamile a breather here and there she can come back into the game refreshed and focused," Dillon said. "Looking back, that was a mistake we made when [all-time scorer] Gabriela Marginean played here.
"We probably relied on her a little too much."
Best In Town
Villanova needs a win over Penn to win the Big Five title outright. Junior Laura Sweeney (Cherokee) right now is probably the front-runner for Big Five player of the year with a 15.6 scoring average and 8.3 rebounds per game.
Other noteworthy players in the hunt: Penn's Alyssa Baron (18.8 points per game), Temple's Shey Peddy (15.1), St. Joseph's Michelle Baker (11.0), and La Salle's Alexis Scott (13.0).