A Step Back

South Bend,Ind - Villanova's chances for a top-four seed in the Big East tournament took a big hit in an upset loss its last time out, but its spot in the NCAA tournament isn't in question.

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Notre Dame is hoping it won't need a big run in New York City to say the same.

Oddsmakers from Online Sportsbook Sportsbook.com have made the Notre Dame -3.5 point spread favorites for Wednesday’s game against the Villanova. Current College Basketball Public Betting Information shows that 57% of more than 238 bets for this game have been placed on the Notre Dame -3.5.

The 10th-ranked Wildcats will try to bounce back from their ugliest offensive performance of the season Monday night when they visit the Fighting Irish, who have a second chance in three days to knock off a league heavyweight.

Villanova (23-6, 11-5) had won nine of 10 games from Jan. 24-Feb. 25 to give itself a serious chance to crack the Big East's top four, a feat that would give it a double bye into the quarterfinals of the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden.

But the possibility of trading places with Marquette or Pittsburgh among the league's elite were hurt on Saturday. The Wildcats shot 33.3 percent - 18.8 percent (3-for-16) from 3-point range - in a 56-54 home loss to Georgetown, which had lost nine of its previous 11.

"I thought we played hard but we didn't execute and didn't adjust to their defense,'' Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "They played better. They knew our personnel and did a great job of playing our personnel and executing their game plan.''

The Wildcats can still catch Pittsburgh if they win their last two games and the Panthers drop their last two, but the more realistic chance looks to be tracking down Marquette. A loss by the Golden Eagles plus two Villanova victories will leave the fourth seed to a complicated tiebreaker.

The fifth- through eighth-place teams will have a bye for the first round of the Big East tournament, and Notre Dame (16-12, 7-9) had a chance to ascend to one of those spots with wins in its final three games.

But after winning four of five, the Irish couldn't pick up a victory that would have been a major boost to their NCAA at-large hopes.

Notre Dame hung with second-ranked Connecticut for 40 minutes in Storrs on Saturday, but the Huskies pulled out a 72-65 win.

"I think we still have a shot (at the NCAA tournament),'' said guard Kyle McAlarney, who had 14 points but missed 6-of-8 3-pointers. "We've been recovering from losses from this all year. This isn't a game where a loss knocks us out. A win would have propelled us, but we can still recover from this.''

The Irish's most impressive win came by 33 points at home against then-No. 5 Louisville, but with a sub-.500 conference record, adding a win over Villanova would provided some needed help to their tournament resume.

To do that, they'll probably need more from Luke Harangody than what he's given them lately. The Big East's leading scorer at 23.6 points per game, Harangody averaged 17.3 points on just 36.5 percent shooting in his last three games.

Harangody and McAlarney came up big in Notre Dame's most recent meeting with Villanova. Harangody had 25 points and a game-high 10 rebounds and McAlarney had 30 points in a 90-80 win in Philadelphia last season.

The Wildcats, meanwhile, need a more accurate effort from Scottie Reynolds. The junior guard was just 2-of-10 on Saturday and finished with 12 points and six turnovers.

Villanova is 9-0 when Reynolds scores 18 points or more and 10-1 when he shoots above 40.0 percent.

Reynolds has averaged 19.7 points in three career games against Notre Dame.

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Posted: 3/2/09 12:00AM ET

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