(Editor's Note: Chris is not good at math. He admits it.)
In their most complete performance of the young season, Villanova absolutely dismantled La Salle on Sunday night 76-47. Everything felt like it was working, and it was exactly the type of turnaround fans were hoping to see after a sub-par effort against Oklahoma (even if it was against a Big 5 minnow). It's always nice when everything that pleases the eye is backed up by the stat machine, and that's exactly what happened on Sunday.
Reminder - if you aren't familiar with the Four Factors, KenPom has a great explanation.
Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%)
Offense: Game - 67.6%, Year Avg - 52.5%, Last Year Avg - 55.3%
Well, there goes the #narrative. Ryan Arcidiacono talked about how the team blocked out all the media noise about how Villanova couldn't shoot the ball. He rightly pointed to the team taking ill-advised shots as the reason for their poor shooting. La Salle played a zone most of the night, which could have resulted in some lazy offense. The Wildcats responded to the critics by using scintillating ball movement both inside and out to free up good looks. 24 assists on 28 made field goals was a joy to watch.
Just about everybody was one fire too - Arch, Josh Hart, Phil Booth, Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges all hit two or more 3s and shot 50% or above. Kris Jenkins continued to be a sore spot (1-4), but he's bound to break out sooner than later given his history. Wouldn't it be poetic if he went bonkers vs. Virginia next weekend?
Scary - This percentage should have been even higher given Henry Lowe (0-1) Patrick Farrell (0-2) and Daniel Ochefu (0-1) were involved with the three-ball.
Defense: Game - 39.4%, Year Avg - 41.4%, Last Year Avg - 45.5%
The broadcast team commented on it once again, but Villanova is way ahead defensively from where everyone expected them to be. La Salle is just not a good team, but the Wildcats never gave them a chance. You could count the uncontested shots on one hand and even during a somewhat sloppy first half, everyone was working hard to make the Explorers earn every shot.
They did an especially nice job on Jordan Price, who came in to the game averaging over 25 ppg and finished with just 16 points on 6-17 shooting. Price is a good player with little to no help, and Villanova's gameplan to make life difficult for him was implemented to perfection.
Turnover Percentage (TO%)
Offense: Game - 20.3%, Year Avg - 14.4%, Last Year Avg - 16.3%
If you wanted to be concerned about anything after this game, it was how loose Villanova was with the ball at times. Brunson in particular had an extremely rough opening 20 minutes, coughing it up three times. It should be noted that both Arch and Booth had multiple turnovers as well. La Salle's zone initially flustered the Wildcats in to some lazy passes, and they successfully trapped the sideline/corner on multiple occasions as well. Given who the next opponent is, expect this to be a focal point in practice this week.
Defense: Game - 17.5%, Year Avg - 22.6%, Last Year Avg - 21.6%
Below average on the year for sure, but if you watched the game you know that Villanova never really kicked the press in to high gear except for very early on in the game - and they generated a couple steals and easy buckets from it too! Once they stretched out the lead, Wright called off the dogs. To be expected given the respect he has for John Giannini.
The 1-2-2 press is a weapon for sure, but it was mostly used to slow La Salle down. Against a veteran team in Virginia, it will be interesting to see how much Wright deploys it. He didn't do it much vs. Oklahoma and we all saw how that went.
Offensive Rebounding Percentage (OR%)
Offense: Game - 34.8%, Year Avg - 31.3%, Last Year Avg - 32.5%
Would you look at that? A game where Villanova was utterly dominant on the glass! They won the rebounding battle 34-23 with Daniel Ochefu (3 caroms) and Mikal Bridges (2) doing particularly fine work on the offensive glass. This result was a little bit expected given the Explorers small stature and overall lack of size on the roster, but it's nice to see Villanova dominate in a problem area. Virginia will be a much bigger test next week.
Defense: Game - 31.4%, Year Avg - 33.4%, Last Year Avg - 31.2%
In addition to Ochefu and Bridges, Josh Hart had another fine game hitting the boards and Darryl Reynolds grabbed 4 in 18 minutes as well. It was a noticeable difference across the roster in terms of boxing out. Not as many tipped or loose balls to go after. Speaking of tipped balls though, Reynolds has been watching some NBA lately. He's developing a nice skill for tipping balls out to the perimeter when he can't secure them himself.
Free Throw Rate (FTRate) - Villanova wins by 7.1%
Offense: Game - 13.7%, Year Avg - 25.8%, Last Year Avg - 41.8%
Along with the rebounding struggles, this is just a glaring hole in Villanova's offense. And last night it wasn't for a lack of driving to the basket either. The refs kept their whistles in their pocket all night (always appreciated) which contributed some, but even when they got the ball in deep, the open pass was almost always to a shooter. And the Wildcats were hitting everything, so it can be excused.
As the year wears on though, this will need to be addressed. Given all the good shooters, free points are there for the taking and the Wildcats will need to find a way to get the charity stripe a bit more often.
Defense: Game - 25%, Year Avg - 25.8%, Last Year Avg - 30.4%
It's amazing how well Villanova can challenge their opponents with pressure and help defense without fouling. La Salle eventually resorted to a strategy of trying to drive as much as possible and get free shots, but the Wildcats defense was one step ahead of them, purely trying to alter shots instead of being over-aggressive. A better team may be able to exploit some of the perimeter overplays we saw last night (and maybe hit some FTs too), but the Wright has gotten his team to improve in this area over last year, which needless to say is a big boost.
Looking Ahead - Virginia (UVA 30% projected winner)
Offensive Projected Winners: eFG% - UVA, TO% - Nova, OR% - UVA, FTRate - UVA
Villanova's offense vs. the "Pack-Line" defense that the Cavaliers employ will likely be the major story line heading in to the game. Tony Bennett's team was #1 in KenPom after Sunday's action, anchored in large part by their infamous defensive strategy.
KenPom is projecting this game in the 60s, which feels right given how elite both defenses have been, but there is an opportunity for Villanova to do some damage if they move the ball like they did for La Salle and (gasp) hit their open shots. When they try to drive, Virginia will clog the lanes and force ball movement. It should come down to who can rotate faster - the Wildcats or the Cavaliers.
Defensive Projected Winners: eFG% - Nova, TO% - Nova, OR% - UVA, FTRate - Nova
We are living in a world where the Wildcats defense (#4) is actually better than the Cavaliers (#5). Soak it in! Virginia's main advantage will be their length and size, and it could get ugly on the boards for Villanova. Both teams shoot the ball pretty well, so limiting second chance opportunities will be crucial.
Another area to watch will be the Villanova press. London Perrantes is a fantastic point guard, but Virginia looked awful when he was out due to an appendectomy. His backup Darius Thompson is talented but still getting his feet wet (4 TOs vs. West Virginia) after transferring in from Tennessee. This could be an area for Villanova to exploit, but given how well the Cavaliers are coached Wright may just opt to go man-to-man.