Andy Hutchins is an editor and weekend blogger for SB Nation, a Florida Gators fan, and one of Villanova's most notable pessimists. He has expressed the opinion that the 'Cats are overrated in the polls and destined for disappointment in March. While Nova Nation wonders if their Wildcats can get back to the top this season, Hutchins fully expects them to falter.
Why is he so pessimistic? VU Hoops offered him the chance to explain himself to Nova Nation in detail.
VU Hoops: So, you've been a pretty vocal critic of Villanova's this season, what gives? You're a notable interweb guy, why aren't you riding the Nova train?
Hutchins: My problems with Villanova start with Creighton, which I think is where most folks' problems with Villanova would start. Creighton hasn't just beaten the 'Cats; it has bombed them, twice, home and away. There is a massive matchup issue for 'Nova with a team with a player like Doug McDermott who can play both the post and the perimeter — granted, Doug McDermott is sui generis — and a worrying trend of allowing a billion threes in those two games. Creighton's obviously far and away the best perimeter team in the country at this point, but what happens when 'Nova sees a team outside the Big East that can shoot?
I also think "notable interweb guy" is going on my headstone, so thanks for that.
VU Hoops: Creighton, admittedly, beat the living hell out of Villanova. Twice. The Wildcats are poised to win or share the Big East regular season title and have a better overall record, isn't that worth anything?
Hutchins: It's probably worth a No. 2 or a No. 1 seed. And it's proof that Villanova is probably "better" than Creighton in some sense. 'Nova matches up better with teams that don't have Doug McDermott (go figure!) and has been really, really good in Big East play apart from those Creighton games, as I've written. My esteem, thankfully, doesn't have a ton to do with how the Selection Committee works.
VU Hoops: You disagree with Jerry Palm that Villanova can be a 1-Seed this season because Creighton should be seeded higher. Is that based solely on the head-to-head, or is there another reason?
Hutchins: It's funny: You sent me this on Wednesday night, and I'm answering it at midday on Thursday, and in the interim, Duke lost to Wake Forest, which I think makes Villanova the favorite for the fourth No. 1 seed (Florida, Wichita State, and Arizona are getting the first three). I've joked that Creighton should ask for a No. 0 seed in 'Nova's bracket if 'Nova gets a No. 1, but, obviously, Villanova has a better NCAA Tournament résumé.
Up until this week, I did not think Villanova deserved a No. 1 seed, period, given that its résumé consisted of a couple really good wins in the Bahamas (all these tournaments that happen at really odd neutral sites seem like outliers to me), three bad losses against excellent teams, and a bunch of decent wins against Big East teams that are going to be early Tourney exits. But Syracuse backed up again (which hurts Syracuse more than it hurts 'Nova's loss to Syracuse), and Duke backed up, and Kansas lost over the weekend, and ... well, it's just really hard not to have Villanova at that fourth No. 1 seed slot now.
VU Hoops: In the Andy Hutchins bracket, where would Villanova be seeded and why?
Hutchins: As of this afternoon? No. 1 in the East, with Duke as the No. 2 and Syracuse as the No. 3. This would be the bracket of CBS's dreams.
VU Hoops: Where would you rank Villanova, if at all, this season?
Hutchins: In my latest power rankings, Villanova is No. 10, and notably behind the Kansas team it beat and the Syracuse team that beat it. That looks wrong now, after Syracuse's loss to Georgia Tech, but I still think Kansas (which has a different Joel Embiid, when healthy, than the one Villanova saw) is better than 'Nova. So I'd probably slide them up to No. 9 if I were writing a power rankings for today, and maybe to No. 8 ahead of Kansas, or No. 7 after penalizing Duke. I still think all six of the teams I have in that top seven that haven't lost this week — Florida, Wichita State, Arizona, Virginia, Michigan, and Wisconsin — would beat Villanova more often than not.
But polls and power rankings are different. I'm trying to determine the best teams, not necessarily the most accomplished, and I think Villanova's both very good and a bit of an overachiever so far this year, so it should probably be right on the fringe of the top five, at worst. Florida, Wichita, 'Zona, Virginia, 'Nova would make a fair bit of sense as a poll ballot as of today; I don't think 'Nova in front of Syracuse and Duke made sense earlier this week.
VU Hoops: What is Villanova's biggest flaw this season? What is their strength?
Hutchins: The flaw is perimeter defense, which is just ugly. Only one other team in the KenPom top 20 is outside the top 200 in three-point percentage allowed, and that team is Tennessee, barely an NCAA Tournament squad at the moment. That flaw would worry me greatly if I were a 'Nova fan, because teams of all kinds get hot from distance down the stretch in March.
The strength, to me, is balance. I like JayVaughn Pinkston and James Bell and Darrun Hilliard as a top three, and Ryan Arcidiacono makes for a strong top four, though I think a fair bit of his improvement this year is really that top three's improvement. Is any one of those guys going to average 22 points in the NCAA Tournament over a four-game stretch? I doubt it. Could any one of those guys go for 22 on a given night? Yes, probably. That's a nice thing to have.
VU Hoops: What do you think the Wildcats' ceiling is in the tournament?
Hutchins: We'll work back from the top: I don't think Villanova can win the national title, because that would almost assuredly require beating at least one of Florida, Arizona, and Wichita State, and I don't see that happening. I think Villanova can, with the right draw, make it to the NCAA Tournament final, but that's a stretch. As a No. 1 seed, 'Nova can certainly go to the Final Four. So I'd say the ceiling is the final, or the Final Four.
I think the most likely outcome, though, is 'Nova getting bombed out on a bad-luck night by a team that just gets hot. Could be in the Elite Eight. Could be in the Sweet Sixteen. Could even be in the round of 32. But that's the feeling I just can't shake about 'Nova. You can thank Creighton for that, I guess.