But the beauty of sport is, none of that wound up mattering Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
Villanova 73, Louisville 64. Don't ask. Just like old times.
"In coaching, you just keep telling your guys to do the right things, and good things will happen," Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. "Just like with your children. They never wavered. They kept doing what we wanted them to do. I'm so glad for them that they [finally] broke through . . . and got rewarded."
The Wildcats (12-7, 3-3 Big East) led by 10 after 12 minutes. By halftime, their advantage was two. They went up by five early in the second half. And then, it looked as if it would be more of the same, as the Cards moved in front by six at the 9:21 mark.
But then Louisville (16-3, 4-2), which shoots 71 percent at the foul line, suddenly couldn't buy a free throw. And the Wildcats were just tougher. They went ahead for keeps with a little less than 4 minutes remaining, on a three-pointer by ninth man Achraf Yacoubou. At 1:47, they were up seven with the ball. A minute later, the Cardinals had trimmed the lead to four, and you started to wonder whether somehow it could go wrong for Villanova again. But Louisville got no closer.
On Monday, freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono, who topped the Wildcats with 15 points, said he felt as if something good was going to happen for this group. He just wasn't sure when. Now they know, and so does everyone else.
"Hopefully, [I thought] if not this year, then next year," he said. "But our focus was on Louisville. We're still learning to play together. We knew if we could do that as a team for the full 40 minutes, we'd pull this out . . . there was no doubt in my mind. I just tried to keep everyone motivated."
Effort has not been the problem. Execution has. The game wasn't always pretty this time. Louisville will do that to you. For a change, though, the Wildcats were good enough.
Yes, they had 19 turnovers, which is their average. But Louisville had 17, or five more than average. The Wildcats went 7-for-15 from the arc, which means they're now 9-0 when they make at least six three-pointers. They also were 22-for-29 from the line, compared with Louisville's 12-for-24. And after intermission, it was 7-for-18. The Miami Heat will have trouble overcoming that.
"It was very simple tonight," Cardinals coach Rick Pitino said. "We were Dwight Howard and Shaquille O'Neal. Our foul shooting was atrocious. Every time we went to the line, it was like a turnover."
Four other Wildcats scored in double figures. Mouphtaou Yarou, who was virtually nonexistent on the stat sheet in Saturday's loss at Providence, had 11. As did Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston, despite getting into foul trouble. Both are sophomores. And James Bell, whose only two field goals were treys, added 10.
The Cards got 15 points and a career-best 13 assists from Peyton Siva, the Big East preseason player of the year, who was coming off a 1-for-9 outing Saturday against the Orange. Wayne Blackshear, who averages eight, had 17, going 5-for-8 from deep. Russ Smith, who averages 19, was limited to eight on 2-for-13 shooting.
It wasn't vintage Louisville, obviously. Still, the Wildcats had something to do with that. Maybe even a lot.
"I still think that's a team that can win the national championship," Wright said. "We know how good they are. This gives our guys confidence in themselves, and what they can do. They just haven't played together enough . . .
"That's the great thing about our league. No matter what you did the game before, you always have the chance in the next game to do something great."
Speaking of which, the Wildcats will face another Top 5 team, Syracuse, in a Saturday matinee, also in South Philly. They lost at the Carrier Dome on Jan. 12, by nine. So we'll see.
This was the last regularly scheduled meeting between the two before Louisville moves to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season. The Cards probably won't miss playing in this building. This was their fourth loss here in five trips.
One game might not be enough to get the Wildcats back into the NCAA Tournament this year. Yet with the way things have mostly gone the last season and a half, it sure beats having to digest another frustrating step sideways. So feel free to storm the court once again.