It's no secret to anyone, especially those that belong to 'Nova Nation, that the Villanova Wildcats basketball team has gone through late season collapses the last couple of seasons that rival those of the New York Mets (by the way, I'm starting to see a trend in my fandom). Has Jay Wright been bold enough as a coach, or is he over-protecting his team?
Wright has been the lynchpin in the success that the program has seen since he took the reigns. You can point to a number of players (Randy Foye, Allan Ray, Scottie Reynolds, Dante Cunningham come to mind) as part of restoring the program to national recognition, but behind it all has been Wright pulling the strings.
In recent seasons though, Wright has seen heightened criticism from the fanbase for some of his decisions - both personnel and overall game strategy. Several times last season it was a hot topic in Philadelphia that Jay Wright wasn't letting his younger players off the proverbial leash. He's also been criticized for his game management once the team has a lead.
We're going to explore each of those aspects of Wright's coaching resume in recent years, and hopefully generate some good discussion amongst the fanbase as to some changes (if any) they'd like to see in the coming season.
First up - everybody's favorite, The Burn Offense (cue scary music). From looking at some of the game threads from last year, it may have burned more ugly memories into the fanbase than the burning of the clock that it was intended to do.
See you after The Jump as we first look at the strategy that had us screaming at the TV last year.
The Burn Offense has been likened to the Prevent Defense by many fans across the country - not just Villanova fans who were subjected to it far too often last year. Just like the Prevent Defense can prevent you from actually winning the game in football, the Burn Offense can burn your chances at winning the game in basketball. The concept itself isn't something anyone can argue with - burn clock with a big lead so that the other team has less time to get itself back into the game.
However, the execution, and what we'll call the side effects of this strategy, can have nightmarish outcomes.
As much as it pains me to do this - let's look back at our Big East Tournament game vs. the South Florida Bulls (already getting sick). 'Nova came out scorching. They ran, they played in-your-face defense, and they looked like the Final 4 contender that we all expected them to be at the beginning of the season en route to a 16-point halftime lead.
Then it all changed. With a hefty lead and a long Big East Tournament in front of them before the grind of the NCAA Tournament, Jay Wright elected to take his foot off the gas. A major no-no in the eyes of fans everywhere, but something that most coaches can't seem to figure out. Call it respecting an opponent or whatever you will, but I'd rather run somebody off the court than give them a chance to climb back into the game.
We all know the story from there - 'Nova made just 4 second half field goals and Antony Crater hit a driving shot with 5 seconds left to stun Villanova. Good memory!
So why did it all fall apart? Well, when you take a team out of what they're good at (in Villanova's case, it's running and playing an up-tempo game) and tell them to milk clock, they lose their identity, momentum, and the flow of the game. Players who were playing with confidence suddenly become lost. Players go on the defensive instead of the offensive, leading to uglier play and more mistakes. It's exactly what Villanova went through, and it wasn't a pretty sight.
Pitt is built for a half-court game. Villanova was born to run. We have been for years. We're at our best when we can use the speed and defensive ability of all of our players and break out for easy buckets. It's like telling a race-horse to jog out the home-stretch after building a seemingly insurmountable lead. Would you ever do that? No, cause that baby wants to kick it into 6th gear like Secretariat and blow the field away.
For better or worse (and it's been ugly playing up-tempo for us at times), that's when we're at our best. Sure, we can win the ugly game here and there, but it's not who we are. Jay Wright - it's time to make the bold decision let your boys play. You're the leader of this program and I will follow you into the gates of Hell, but let's get back to basics and not over-think the gameplan.
So what do you think? Do you agree that the burn offense is hurting the team or is Jay's strategy right, and just the execution of it has been off?