'Nova expects to march into the polls

Villanova's Josh Hart celebrates with a teammate after Villanova won the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. (Tim Aylen/Bahamas Visual Services/AP)
Villanova's Josh Hart celebrates with a teammate after Villanova won the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. (Tim Aylen/Bahamas Visual Services/AP) (AP)
Posted: December 03, 2013

Villanova returned Sunday from the Bahamas with the championship trophy from the Battle 4 Atlantis and increased confidence that it will contend in the Big East, and perhaps nationally.

Thanks to victories over second-ranked Kansas in the semifinals and No. 23 Iowa in Saturday night's title game, the Wildcats (7-0) could become the conference's highest-ranked team when the latest Associated Press top 25 poll is released on Monday.

But while he reveled in watching his players celebrate on the floor at the Atlantis Casino Resort in Paradise Island, Jay Wright provided some perspective.

"We've got a lot of heart," the Villanova coach told NBC Sports Network. "We've got good depth. Our young guys are growing up. It's still only November, though. We've got a long way to go."

While March is a long way off, the Wildcats' wins over the Jayhawks, 63-59, and the Hawkeyes, 88-83, in overtime, should impress the NCAA selection committee when the tournament invitations are handed out, especially since the new Big East, without Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Louisville, likely will get fewer bids than in the past.

"When you get your nonconference chances, it's always great to take advantage of them," Wright said.

Playing their third game in three days, the Wildcats received some terrific performances from their bench Saturday night. Two freshmen played a major role, with Josh Hart scoring 14 points and Kris Jenkins adding 12, including five in overtime.

They provided ample support to starters such as senior James Bell, who had 20 points, sparked the second-half rally, and was named the tournament's most valuable player.

"It was really a team effort," said guard Ryan Arcidiacono, who helped force the overtime by hitting three-point baskets on back-to-back possessions. "Josh Hart, by far, played the best on our team. Josh, Kris Jenkins, everybody stepped up."


jjuliano@phillynews.com

@joejulesinq

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