Observations: Villanova could be at home throughout the tournament

Villanova was voted to the top spot in the AP poll on Monday for the first time in school history, which properly sets the table for what lies ahead.

The Wildcats are now in position to be the top-overall seed in the East Region of the 2016 NCAA Tournament and that seat carries significantly more weight than it might have in past years because of where games will be played in March during the field of 68.

Should Jay Wright’s squad hold serve moving forward, it will likely play its first and second-round games at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and then return home to Philadelphia to play potential Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games at the Wells Fargo Center.

Obviously, Villanova has to handle its business from now until Selection Sunday to be in this type of position, but it needs to be pointed out that Wright’s team has more at stake at this juncture in the season than the past couple of years.

The Wildcats have won back-to-back Big East regular season titles, but have lost in the Round of 32 in each of the past two years, failing to make the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend.

It would be much easier to achieve that if this team could start its journey next month in Brooklyn and then potentially have a chance to play in South Philadelphia for the right to advance to the Elite Eight and the Final Four.

Villanova is currently 20-3 overall and faces DePaul Tuesday in Chicago.

Texas has the power of belief

The Longhorns didn’t win at Oklahoma on Monday night, but they proved again that they’re a much different team than they were earlier this season.

Shaka Smart learned from his time as an assistant at Florida under Billy Donovan the importance of a player’s mind being in the right place and you can see he’s implemented that focus with this group at Texas.

The Longhorns are walking onto the floor like a team that intends to win; a notion that wasn’t there during the early stages of the year.

Since starting out 1-2 in Big 12 play, Texas has won six of its last eight in conference play and seven of its last nine overall.

This team has won at West Virginia and Baylor while also showing well in losses at Oklahoma and Kansas.

That’s the requisites of a squad that could be a tough out in the NCAA Tournament.

The Longhorns are 16-8 overall and next travel to Iowa State on Saturday.

Kansas can regain control of the Big 12 with two wins this week

Betting against Bill Self in conference play over the past decade has made about as much sense as betting against Bruce Willis in a “Die Hard” movie. You better believe Jayhawks’ fans are hoping their leader does his best John McClane impression this week.

Kansas (19-4, 7-3) finally has fate in its own hands again and can seize control of the Big 12 race if it wins its two league games this week against West Virginia and Oklahoma respectively.

The Mountaineers’ bullied the Jayhawks in an 11-point win in Morgantown in early January and the Sooners should be riled up on Saturday in Norman after falling in triple-overtime in Lawrence.

West Virginia currently leads Kansas by a half game in the Big 12 Standings entering Tuesday’s game at Phog Allen Fieldhouse.

This just in

  • Villanova’s Daniel Ochefu (concussion) is probable for Tuesday’s game at DePaul, a school spokesman told CBS Sports. Ochefu returned to practice yesterday.
Villanova has a clear path to some home cooking in the NCAA Tournament. (USATSI)

This and That

  • Oregon’s Dillon Brooks is averaging 21.4 points while shooting 50.6 percent from the field over his last five games. The sophomore is starting to separate himself as the favorite for Pac-12 player of the year. Brooks is averaging 16.9 points and 6.0 rebounds in total this season. Dana Altman’s squad is 20-4 overall.
  • Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim told CBS Sports on Monday that he thinks Virginia is emerging as the team to beat in the ACC. “They’re gangbusters right now,” Boeheim said of the Cavaliers. “They’ve dominated Louisville at Louisville and Pitt at Pitt. That’s not easy to do.” Virginia has won six consecutive games and is putting itself in position to win its third consecutive ACC regular season title.
  • Melo Trimble is Maryland’s Mariano Rivera. Whether it’s by scoring or distributing, the sophomore floor general knows how to close games out for the Terps. Trimble was great in ball-screen action late in Saturday’s win over Purdue with Diamond Stone, but also knows when to attack the goal himself. He’s averaging 17.8 points over his last five games.
  • Dayton’s Charles Cooke is shooting the ball significantly better than he did two years ago at James Madison. The 6-6 wing is currently shooting 48.5 percent from the field and 45.6 percent from three-point range after shooting just 41.5 percent from the field and 29.8 percent from deep during the 2013-14 season. Cooke is averaging 16.1 points and 6.1 rebounds for the 19-3 Flyers.
  • Dean Wade continues to look like a steal for Kansas State. The cerebral big man had 17 points and seven rebounds in Saturday’s upset win over Oklahoma including three made 3-point shots. This is the type of player that opposing Big 12 fans will love to hate as the years progress in Little Manhattan.
  • Five of USC’s top-six scorers are shooting 35.0 percent or better from 3-point range. Can you say hard to guard? The Trojans are averaging 84.0 points each time they take the floor — explosive!
  • Rhode Island sophomore Jared Terrell is averaging 23.0 points over his last four games and is the first player in the Rams’ program to score 20 or more points in four consecutive games since Jimmy Baron did it during the 2008-09 season.
  • Eastern Kentucky deserves credit for being the first OVC team to win at Belmont over the weekend. That’s a heck of a win for first-year coach Dan McHale and the Colonels’ program.
  • Tacko Fall continues to impact the game defensively for Central Florida. The 7-foot-6 freshman has blocked three shots in two of the Knights’ last three games and is averaging 2.0 blocks in total. Donnie Jones’ squad is 11-10 overall and 5-5 in conference play.
  • Stony Brook is currently on a 16-game winning streak and hasn’t lost since Dec. 12. The Seawolves’ margin of victory during that span is 17.2 points. Steve Pikiell’s squad is the clear favorite in the America East Conference.

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