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March appetizer: Villanova vs. Syracuse

No. 7 Villanova (23-4, 12-3 Big East) is at No. 4 Syracuse (26-2, 13-2) in a nationally televised game tonight at 9 p.m. This is a matchup of potential Final Four teams if ever there was one, and the game also will affect seeding for the Big East tournament.

Until recently, both teams were on the top line of one of the four regions in the NCAA tournament. But back-to-back losses to Connecticut and Pittsburgh dropped Nova from that discussion. A win at Syracuse, whose only two losses came at home this season, certainly would put the Wildcats back near the top of the rankings.

Conversely, it could drop the Orange out of a top seed. Depending on what happens in the Big East tournament, at least one of these teams is guaranteed to lose again. Even so, it's hard to see how both don't deserve a No. 1 seed, especially now that Purdue has lost No. 2 scorer Rick Hummel for the season with a knee injury. He was the glue for the Boilermakers.

Kansas and Kentucky certainly have done everything they need to do to be assured of a No. 1 seed. If Purdue drops down a little, Duke might get into the argument. But the ACC is relatively weak this season compared to the dog-eat-dog Big East, and Syracuse and Villanova might lose out on a top seed because of the intramural wars. They'll still be among the four toughest teams at NCAA time no matter where they're seeded, but the road will be a little tougher if they're not on the top line.

In any case, Villanova vs. Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, where 34,616 seats have been sold, is an enticing appetizer for a month of tournament play that lies ahead.

Back later today with more after St. John's meets No. 12 Pitt this afternoon at Madison Square Garden.

New York Sports