Trotto’s crystal ball: Who’s in for NCAA wins

Sorry to St. Joseph’s, Penn, and Drexel, but barring any miracle stretch of wins at the end of the season, the only Philadelphia college basketball teams that have a chance to play in the NCAA tournament this year are Temple, Villanova and La Salle. Let’s take a look at how likely each of these three teams are to make the Big Dance this year, and how far they can go.

Temple Owls

Record: 18-8 (7-5 Atlantic 10 Conference)
3 Best Wins: Syracuse, Saint Louis, La Salle
3 Worst Losses: Canisius, St. Bonaventure, Duquesne

The Owls beat then top-ranked overall team Syracuse on December 22, and have since only hurt their resume with losses to Atlantic-10 bottom dwellers like St. Bonaventure and Duquesne. They do have easily the toughest non-conference schedule out of the Philadelphia teams, facing opponents such as Duke and Kansas. Temple could very much use one more solid nonconference victory, and that opportunity could arise when they face another hungry team in Detroit on Feb. 28. If the Owls can avoid a major letdown against either Fordham or Rhode Island, they should make the tournament for the sixth consecutive year.

In or Out? In as an 11 seed.

Villanova Wildcats

Record: 18-10 (9-6 Big East Conference)
3 Best Wins: Louisville, Syracuse, Marquette
3 Worst Losses: Providence, Providence, Columbia

Not only did Villanova follow Temple’s example in beating Syracuse, but they also beat another top-five team in Louisville, another top-20 team in Marquette, and a tournament bound Connecticut team. With teams like that, the question usually isn’t whether they will make it into the tournament, but how far can they go? Well, teams like that usually don’t lose to Big East bottom feeders Providence twice, nor do they get blown out by Ivy League punching bag Columbia at home. The best way to guarantee themselves a spot in the Big Dance is if they can get by Seton Hall, beat either Pittsburgh or Georgetown in their final three games, and win a few games in the Big East tournament.

In or Out? In as a 10 seed

La Salle Explorers

Record: 18-7 (8-4 Atlantic 10 Conference)
3 Best Wins: Butler, Virginia Commonwealth, Villanova
3 Worst Losses: Central Connecticut State, Xavier, Massachusetts

The Explorers had eleven freaky days, and it is on the strength of that stretch alone that they are even in the conversation for the NCAA tournament. On January 19, they lost to a Xavier team on a down year. Then on January 23 and 26, they beat national top 15 teams Butler and Virginia Commonwealth, followed by a one-point heartbreaker to Massachusetts on January 30. La Salle has had really only one bad loss, a head scratcher against Central Connecticut State in the second game of the season, and they have had three pretty good wins: Butler, VCU, and Villanova. Of the three Philly teams that have a shot at the tournament, this team’s resume is the most solid. The regular season finale against Saint Louis is a huge opportunity to bolster their already very good resume even more.

In or Out? In as an 11 seed.