Updated: December 27 at 9:00 am.
With over 150 participating in our poll, the VUHoops readers expect the Cats to go 10-8 during Big East Conference play, with 7 wins at home and 3 wins on the road.
The probabilities associated with each predicted win and loss have been calculated using reader voting as a proxy for the probability of the predicted outcome. The details of the Cat's predicted 10-8 conference record, including the probability of the predicted outcome, are set out below.
|Home vs. S. Florida (RPI 138) on 5-Jan (95%)|
|Home vs. DePaul (RPI 166) on 8-Jan (94%)|
|Home vs. Notre Dame (RPI 210) on 18-Feb (82%)|
|Away @ Rutgers (RPI 289) on 1-Mar (81%)|
|Home vs. Providence (RPI 143) on 7-Feb (79%)|
|Away @ S. Florida (RPI 138) on 15-Feb (77%)|
|Home vs. Cincy (RPI 196) on 3-Mar (70%)|
|Away @ St. John's (RPI 264) on 21-Jan (69%)|
|Home vs. Seton Hall (RPI 08) on 18-Jan (66%)|
|Home vs. Cincy (RPI 196) on 14-Jan (60%)|
|Away @ Marquette (RPI 12) on 1-Jan (93%)|
|Home vs. Syracuse (RPI 1) on 11-Jan (91%)|
|Away @ Louisville (RPI 7) on 25-Jan (91%)|
|Home vs. UConn (RPI 5) on 20-Feb (89%)|
|Away @ Pitt (RPI 69) on 5-Feb (82%)|
|Away @ Georgetown (RPI 57) on 25-Feb (80%)|
|Away @ West Virginia (RPI 35) on 28-Dec (76%)|
|Home vs. Marquette (RPI 12) on 28-Jan (68%)|
The Cat’s finished their out-of-conference schedule unranked with an RPI of 79 with a 7-5 record. Of Villanova’s twelve OOC games, only four were against quality opponents as measured by RPI or AP ranking (St. Louis, Temple, St. Joe’s and Missouri). The Cats lost all of those games by margins of ten points or more. Their worst loss came against Santa Clara (RPI 130), which we all remember remember for the Cat's collapse, blowing a five-point lead with 51 seconds to go. ‘Nova’s seven victories came against teams with an average RPI of 189, with the best of the bunch at home against LaSalle (RPI 100). Even in that game the Cats had to hold off a furious second half charge by the Explorers, which played without their top scorer, Ramon Galloway (15.0 PPG, 50% 3PT%).
We expected this team to be inconsistent but good, with flashes of brilliance coupled with inconsistency typical of a young team. The inconsistency was clearly evident, but the flashes of brilliance, well … not so much. After an embarrassing loss to a very young St. Joe’s team, Coach Jay Wright stopped blaming the team’s woes on its "youth" in favor of perhaps a more accurate characterization -- "inexperience." Only Maalik Wayns and Mouph Yarou returned as starters from last season. Yet, youth and inexperience explain only so much when considering the success of teams like Connecticut and Providence, both with ten freshman and sophomores and over ten wins this season.
From here, things only get tougher as the Big East season begins this week against West Virginia. If the Cat’s have any hopes of post-season play, they need to get better fast. What are their most glaring "opportunities" to do so? For some of the answers, we turned to Statsheet.com, which tracks every imaginable basketball statistic under the sun. We compared the Cat’s stats with the average statistics of the top five teams in the nation to see how far we are from greatness. Here’s what we found:
One of the most frustrating things about this team has been its defense. Opposing teams seem to find wide-open shots at will. We have had no answer for even average perimeter scoring-teams. Every loss seems to feature a career high in scoring by an opposing player. ‘Nova allows the bad guys to score 66.0 PPG (ranking = 165th) on 40.6% shooting (ranking = 101st). While tough perimeter defense is sorely needed, comparison with the nation's best teams highlights three other glaring opportunities:
|Statistic||Villanova||AP Top Five Avg.||% Variance|
|Blocks Per Game||2.9||5.9||51%|
|Steals Per Game||5.2||8.9||41%|
On offense, this team has distinguished itself so far by its poor outside shooting and shot selection. Nowhere is this more evident than in the in the case of Wayns and Cheek, who have combined for 123 shots from behind the arc (18% of all the shots taken by the team), while hitting only 28% of them. JayVaughn Pinkston, ‘Nova’s top three-point shooter (42%) has attempted only 12 three-point shots. Still not convinced? As a team, Villanova is a decent 2-point shooting team (48.7%), but poor from long range (31.6%). Yet, the team stubbornly launches 38% of its shots from beyond the arc. Still in doubt? Consider this. Villanova is the 10th best free-throw shooting team in the country at 76.8%, yet gets to the line only 21.6 times per game, good for a 118th ranking in the country! Worst of all, Villanova has a tendency to bring the ball up and shoot quickly with a hand in the face rather than exercising the patience to work for a good shot.
‘Nova scores 72.8 PPG (ranking = 103rd) on 42.1% shooting (ranking = 221st), while dishing out only 13.2 assists per game (ranking 151st). Comparison with the nations five best teams identifies four glaring opportunities for improvement:
|Statistic||Villanova||AP Top Five Avg.||% Variance|
|Assists Per Game||13.2||16.7||21%|
|Field Goal Percentage||42.1%||48.2%||13%|
|Free Throw Attempts||259||287||10%|
What did We Expect?
Over the weeks leading up to the season opener, the VUHoops readers predicted the points per game the team would score this season in our Wisdom of Crowds poll. So far the team has come very close to our expectations. We predicted the team would score 72.2 PPG vs. an actual PPG of 72.8 PPG through twelve games. However, that average is likely to drop as the team goes through the meat grinder otherwise known as the Big East. Darrun Hilliard, scoring 7.0 PPG as a starter vs. our prediction of 3.8 PPG, has been our most pleasant surprise. Ty Johnson’s scoring average of 2.2 PPG vs. our prediction of 5.7PPG has been our biggest disappointment. His 11 MPG has had a lot to do with it, and we all hope to see much more PT for Ty over the remainder of the year. Here’s a comparison of our all players' PPG vs. our predictions:
The Two Best & Two Worst ( Per 40 Minutes Played)
- OREB: Best: Kennedy (6.1), Yarou (4.5); Worst: Wayns (0.7), Hilliard (0.9)
- ASST: Best: Wayns (6.3), Johnson (5.0); Worst: Yarou (1.1), Cheek (1.2)
- TO: Best: Yacoubou (0.8), Hilliard (1.4); Worst: Pinkston (4.6), Johnson (3.6)
- DREB: Best: Kennedy (9.6), Sutton (8.6); Worst: Yacoubou (2.1), Johnson (2.4)
- Steals: Best: Kennedy (2.0), Pinkston (1.3); Worst: Yacoubou (0.3), Sutton (0.6)
- Blocks: Best: Yarou (1.3), Bell (0.9); Worst: Wayns (0.0), Johnson (0.0)
The statistic that shocked me the most was the players’ offensive ratings (representing points produced per possession (field goal attempts, free throw attempts and turnovers). Maurice Sutton (121.7) and Dominic Cheek (117.4) lead the team, while JayVaughn Pinkston (79.6) and Ty Johnson (87.3) have the team's poorest offensive ratings. However, before we begin chants of "We Want Mo," a bit of context may be helpful. None of the Cats offensive ratings are particularly strong when you consider that Syracuse’s Baye Keita leads the nation with an offensive rating of 152.3.
To earn a post-season birth, Villanova needs to do the seemingly impossible -- get better fast against a Big East field that features six teams in the Top 25*#1 Syracuse, #4 Louisville, #9 Connecticut, #12 Georgetown, #14 Marquette and#22 Pittsburgh). Do the Cats have it in them? You decide by predicting the outcome of 'Nova games for the rest of the way in our reader poll, below.