It's March, and in a typical year that means local college basketball teams are gearing up for an NCAA Tournament run. But the odds are long for the vast majority of teams in Philadelphia this season, with a bigger than ever before drop off between Villanova and the rest of the Big 5.
Conference tournaments begin this week — and with no teams save for the Wildcats promised a slot in the Big Dance, this week is make or break for underachieving schools. Here's a look at where Villanova, Temple, La Salle, St, Joes' and UPenn stand less than a week from Selection Sunday:
No. 2 Villanova
27-4 (14-4, second in Big East)
Barring some kind of horrible first round upset in this week's Big East Tournament (Nova is a 2-seed as they are one game behind Xavier), the Wildcats are all but assured a No. 1 seed when the brackets are revealed. They may not exactly have NCAA seeding to play for, but the club has won two of the last three tournament titles and will be looking to add a third in four years. Led by likely to depart juniors Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges — each player of the year candidates, the team's current era of incredible success could take a step backward soon. The dynasty that made Jay Wright a household name and gave Villanova it's second NCAA championship is on its last legs and has a chance to make one more run at hoops supremacy.
22-8 (12-2, first in Ivy League)
The Quakers are having their best season in nearly a decade but it comes with a catch. For the second time in history, the Ivy League has a tournament to determine it's NCAA representitive. Meaning what once was determined by regular season record (which would have put Penn into the Dance) will now be determined by a four-team tournament this coming weekend. The good news is, the Quakers have been the best team in the Ivy this season and the tournament will be held at their home court — the Palestra. They are the most likely team to join Nova in the field of 68.
16-16 (8-10, seventh in American)
The Owls were a true bubble team a couple of weeks ago — and sport wins over teams like Auburn, Wisconsin, Clemson and Wichita State this season. But losses in four of their last five games made them an extreme longshot for an NCAA tournament berth. Without an at-large bid possible, Temple needs to win the AAC tournament. They begin Thursday against Tulane, a team they split two games with. If they win, it will be Wichita for the third time.
15-15 (10-8, fourth in A-10)
The Hawks are in a similar position as their rivals the Owls but thanks to a different confluence of events. They are red-hot, and have won six of their last seven games including a 30-point romp over No. 17 Rhode Island. Getting into the fourth seed of the A-10 tournament helps but with just 15 wins a miracle tourney win is necessary. A double-bye thanks to that seed means they get to wait until Friday and will only need three wins.
13-18 (7-11, 12th in A-10)
La Salle is the biggest longshot after a dreadful losing, injury-riddled season. They face UMass Wednesday, and then would need to beat George Mason Thursday to earn the right to face Big 5 rivals St. Joe's Friday.