Observations: Nova needs to win Big East tourney to secure top seed

1. Villanova will need to win the Big East tournament to cement its place as a 1-seed: Jay Wright’s team has the inside track to the West Region’s top perch, but will need to take care of business this week at Madison Square Garden. Kentucky, Duke and Virginia have all but locked up spots as top seeds in the NCAA tournament, but the fourth spot on the top line is much more fluid. If Villanova (29-2) loses this week, it could open up the door for Arizona or Wisconsin to grab it. The Wildcats will be the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament. They have lost three games this season by only three combined possessions. The Badgers, meanwhile, have also lost three games, but one of those losses was at Rutgers when Wisconsin was without Frank Kaminsky. It will be interesting to see how this whole scenario plays out during the next seven days.

2. Dom Pointer deserves a spot on the All-Big East first team: It’s not an oversight — it’s an insult. Seven players were selected for the all-Big East first team and that list didn’t include the St. John’s forward. When decisions like this are made, you really have to wonder if the people making them know that a basketball is round. Game after game, the 6-foot-6 senior has thrived as an undersized power forward and is the primary reason why Steve Lavin’s team is set to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011. A matchup nightmare for opponents, Pointer’s versatility has allowed him to affect the game in a plethora of ways. He’s averaging 13.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.5 blocks, and 2.0 steals this season for St. John’s, which is 21-10 overall and 10-8 in league play heading into this week’s Big East tournament. Again, it’s not an oversight — it’s a flat-out insult.

3. Nate Buss is the X-Factor for Northern Iowa: The Panthers ‘ major Achilles’ heel is that they sometimes go through long scoring droughts, but it’s harder for them to do that if Buss plays the way he did this past weekend at the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in St. Louis. A skilled, stretch-four man, Buss averaged 15.7 points and was 6 for 11 from 3-point range during the Panthers’ three tournament games. The 6-9 senior completely extended the defense from the power forward position and allowed Seth Tuttle to be isolated more in low-post situations. Ben Jacobson’s team is an impressive 30-3 heading into the field of 68 and has legitimate potential to reach the NCAA tournament’s second weekend.

Larry Davis has Cincinnati on the cusp of its fifth straight appearance in the NCAAs. (USATSI)

4. Larry Davis should be the Coach of the Year in the American Conference: SMU’s Larry Brown, Tulsa’s Frank Haith and Temple’s Fran Dunphy all had great years with their respective teams, but the job Davis did at Cincinnati in place of Mick Cronin needs to be commended. The Bearcats are 14-6 since Davis took the reins of Cincinnati’s bench from Cronin in late December, and now this program is all but assured of a berth in the NCAA tournament for the fifth consecutive season. It’s not an easy thing to take over for your boss during a time of crisis, but that’s just what Davis did — and he did it admirably. The Bearcats finished the regular season with a 22-9 record, including a 13-5 mark in conference play. Cincinnati will next play the winner between UConn and South Florida in the American Conference tournament quarterfinals Friday in Hartford, Conn.

5. The pressure on head coaches in mid-major tournaments cannot be understated:Andy Enfield didn’t win the Atlantic Sun regular-season title two years ago at Florida Gulf Coast. It didn’t matter because he won the conference’s automatic bid in the league tournament and advanced to the field of 68. We all know what happened from there. Enfield pitched two perfect games against Georgetown and San Diego State, which allowed the Eagles to reach the Sweet 16 and ultimately catapulted the coach into a multimillion dollar contract with USC. This is what can happen in March, but all stories don’t end like Enfield’s did. There are several teams this past weekend that had terrific regular seasons and won’t be rewarded with a trip to the field of 68 because they fell short in their conference tournaments. Steve Prohn and Murray State hadn’t lost a game since Nov. 29, but will likely be in the NIT instead of the NCAAs since the Racers lost to Belmont in the OVC tournament final on Saturday. The same thing happened for Dave Paulsen andBucknell , who fell to Lafayette at home in the Patriot League semifinals after winning the conference’s regular-season title. There’s a small window to cash in if you’re a mid-major coach looking to advance your career in this business. Either you seize it or you don’t.

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