David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
A quick background on one of Villanova's more underrated squads.
Don't know much about the Villanova women's basketball team? Doesn't surprise me. If you don't attend UConn, Notre Dame, or Baylor, you probably know of Brittney Griner and Maya Moore, but are unaware of most other teams and players. And that's okay.
Up until the 1970s (and even later in some states), women's basketball was split into two parts. You either played offense or defense, and you couldn't cross half-court. Apparently they didn't think females could keep up with the pace.
Well, things are different now. That's for sure. And while the crowds may not be the same as the men's games, the games are often just as exciting (minus the dunks, of course). Here's a few reasons why you should tune in to Villanova women's hoops coverage for the next month or two:
1. They're good.
A few weeks ago, before they fell to the inevitable likes of Connecticut and Notre Dame, Villanova's RPI peaked for the year at 9. Overtime losses to Rutgers and Providence (both on the road) and a close loss to Marquette, have aided in their fall, but they still sit 20th in RPI as of today. Men's teams currently hovering around an RPI of 20? Georgetown (16), Butler (18), Wisconsin (26). That's the caliber the Wildcats currently play at.
Granted, they were projected so far down in the Big East that pollsters take a while to get used to them. USA Today's poll finally put Villanova at #25 a few weeks ago, and a win at home this weekend against current #12 Louisville would certainly put them back in the discussion for a top 25 ranking. Also, yesterday's Bracketology update gave them a number 8 seed. Not where you want to be in the NCAA women's tournament, as the #1's are Goliaths, but that will most likely change. Barring a collapse, this team will be playing come March Madness season.
2. They're fun to watch.
Before you knock this team (or women's sports) for any reason, I suggest you come to a game. Harry Perretta is a very loud and instructing coach on the sidelines, and often he provides entertainment for the attendees.
But the team itself is a very fun team to watch. In the same sense that a dunk electrifies an audience, this team plays an interesting mix of fast pace with drawn-out possessions. Perretta designs plays, and this team executes. The passing is precise, the shot selection is solid. The game doesn't get boring, even though the score often doesn't hit 60. They remind me of a Georgetown-style offense... well that's not exactly it, but I can't think of a men's team that plays like the Villanova women do.
(Editor's Note: Good save on almost giving Georgetown credit.)
Talk about a team that lives and dies by the three. No, not the men. They average 6.5 made threes per game, which surprisingly enough, ranks them in the middle third in Division I. The women make 7.9 a game. 14th in the country. They shot 39 threes on Saturday afternoon in a win against Georgetown. They made 15. Every player can shoot from deep, even the 6'2 forwards Emily Leer and Laura Sweeney.
3. For the same reasons the Villanova men are driving you insane.
This team only has one bad loss: on the road against Providence, in overtime. That day, senior Rachel Roberts, the highest-scoring guard on the team, was sick. Another star guard, freshman Caroline Coyer, injured her wrist during the game. All things considered, it's a game they'd like to have back, but the team was at their weakest at that point.
These Wildcats also take exemplary control of the ball. The men's team ranks in the bottom 40 in turnovers per game. The women? Number one.
Not two. Not three. One. They take care of the ball better than any team in the nation. By nearly half a turnover per game. The fourth best team trails by nearly a full turnover per game.
It's also interesting to see how many people complain about Jay Wright's lack of a system on offense. We get it, inbounds plays aren't his strong suit. Well, come see a women's game. They exclusively run plays. Perretta yells a number, a word, a phrase. The team hears it, and they listen. They run the play, they score. They set beautiful screens, use the pick and roll, find the open shooter, and are constantly moving on offense. It's the way basketball was meant to be played, and Perretta and associate head coach Joe Mullaney are X's and O's geniuses who can create a functioning offense against anyone.
Long story short, this is a tournament team. They're good. They play hard, they're competitive, and they're fun to watch. They're 9-6 against the RPI top 100, and 2-2 against the RPI top 25. The Wildcats only lost to Notre Dame by seven points. It was one of the five closest games the Irish have played all year, and 'Nova is the only team to keep Notre Dame to a single digit win since January 8th.
The bandwagon is still being built, it's not too early to jump on. Do it now, before they make a Sweet 16 run.