Villanova seemed to silence all the doubters in a 95-64 win over Xavier on Thursday afternoon. The 'Cats rained threes down on the Muskies and made them look silly with their defensive pressure, which made a primetime clash feel like a practice by the half.
Upon closer examination though, Villanova still has some areas to work on. As Chris Mack will likely say, "They are who we thought they were!" Villanova torched the nets and turned X over for easy baskets. Villanova's identity as a space and pace team allowed them to split the Four Factors - but Coach Wright still has some work to do with his team in a problem area.
Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) - Villanova wins by 29.5%
Offense: Game - 74.6%, Season- 54.9%, Last Year - 55.3%
So, uh, yeah. Villanova just Creighton-bombed Xavier back to Cincinnati. Ryan Arcidiacono was the main culprit, going unconscious in the first half (and in fairness getting a little three-happy late on) but goodness was he having a game. Villanova went 13-25 from downtown and 23-32 inside the arc, which feels like exactly the right mix for this team. And since they made their shots, it was devastating. Tons of the offense ran through Daniel Ochefu, who had a fantastic game with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists.
Xavier had no answer today for Villanova's offense, just like they've had no answer for the past two seasons. Chris Mack needs to go back to the drawing board, again.
Defense: Game - 45.1%, Season - 43.5%, Last Year - 45.5%
On this side of the ball, the Musketeers were obviously hurt immensely by the early injury to Edmond Sumner who does so much for their offense. Without him, it fell on Larry Austin and Myles Davis (5 TOs) to get things going, and they just never could. Most of their success came from going to James Farr inside. Villanova was happy to concede that since Xavier couldn't find the net from the outside (31.6%).
Turnover Percentage (TO%) - Villanova wins by 12.2%
Offense: Game - 14.9%, Season - 14.9%, Last Year - 16.3%
Another masterclass from Villanova, and it even came with the trigger-happy Arch and a sick Jalen Brunson (3 TOs each) getting a bit careless with the ball. The ball movement was crisp and everyone was attacking the interior and either finishing or finding the open man. A sloppy first half (8 TOs) was really cleaned up in the second as well. High marks to Villanova for finishing this game with their foot on the pedal.
Defense: Game - 27.1%, Year Avg. - 23.0% , Last Year - 21.6%
Again, the injury to Sumner needs to be considered here, but even he has a propensity to turn the ball over a good bit. The usually steady Myles Davis was a mess and the 'Cats - Mikal Bridges and his 3 steals in particular - did a fantastic job of forcing Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura into bad decisions which sprung fast breaks for easy points. We've been waiting for Villanova's press to kick in to high gear against an elite team and we saw it in spades today.
Offensive Rebounding Percentage (OR%) - Xavier wins by 24.6%
Offense: Game - 23.8%, Season - 31.9%, Last Year - 32.5%
Yes, unusually low even by Villanova's standards. Two main factors were at play here though. The main one is that Villanova just shot the ever-loving crap out of the ball. In such a lopsided game, they weren't crashing the glass very hard and were getting a lot of open looks (and making them). The second less important note is Josh Hart's day. In between his 13-point outburst to start the second half he was plagued by foul trouble. He's one of the best offensive rebounders on the team and just wasn't out there a lot today.
Defense: Game - 48.4%, Year Avg. - 33.8% , Last Year - 31.2%
Villanova was out-sized here and we knew this would be a problem area for the team. Xavier wasn't shooting the ball well and played more 'size' lineups than they usually do as Mack tried to exploit his height advantage. It worked as they hauled in 15 offensive rebounds off 31 misses - dominant numbers. Something Jay Wright needs to continue to work on with his group but given the lopsided score, it really didn't matter much today.
Free Throw Rate (FTRate) - Xavier wins by 31.7%
Offense: Game - 19.3%, Season - 29.0%, Last Year - 41.8%
Villanova continued its struggle to get to the charity stripe against Xavier, but it honestly wasn't for a lack of trying. The Wildcats started off 8-11 from downtown to build their lead, but then went cold heading in to the half. They finished the half by going inside to the rim and then carried it over to the second half well. Xavier was playing a ton of olé defense and didn't seem invested in making an attempt to deny Villanova. If they don't foul you, you don't shoot free throws. Plain and simple.
Defense: Game - 51%, Year Avg. - 30.1% , Last Year - 30.4%
This correlates directly to the offensive rebounding dominance that Xavier exerted on 'Nova all afternoon. It wasn't helped at all though by the referees, who seemed over-assertive before Sumner's injury and then absolutely hell-bent on calling a ton of soft calls on both teams. The result was 40 personal foul calls in a whistle happy fest. This is an area of aberration for sure given how good Villanova has been this season in this department but they'll want to study the numerous hand check fouls that were called and make sure they aren't given the refs the opportunity to do it next time out.
Looking Ahead - Creighton (Nova 76% projected winner)
Offensive projected winners: eFG% - Creighton, TO% - Nova, OR% - Nova, FTRate - Creighton
Creighton has always boasted an excellent offense since coming in to the league, and this year with the addition of transfer Mo Watson they're clicking yet again. They currently rank 25th in adjusted offensive efficiency and are using Watson as the lead man to set up a bevy of high-end role players. Frankly, Greg McDermott won't care where he gets his points. Geoffrey Groselle is shooting 75% from the field and he's surrounded by good-to-great shooters in Isaiah Zierden, Khyri Thomas, James Milliken and Watson. This will be a challenge on the road for the Villanova defense.
Defensive projected winners: eFG% - Nova, TO% - Nova, OR% - Creighton, FTRate - Nova
For as good an offensive coach as McDermott is, defense just never seems to be a priority in Omaha. And their schedule has been odd. So very challenging games, and then a bunch of cupcakes. Thus, it's hard to tell. But given they are playing an elite offense in Villanova, we'll focus on the meaningful teams they've played. In the 3 KenPom Top 100 games they've played, they've let up 87 (Oklahoma), 86 (Indiana) and 79 (Arizona State). And they've lost all three of those. In a sense, it feels like the Bluejays need to outscore their opponents to win. Homecourt advantage on a Saturday night should play a big part but it's hard to see them slowing down Villanova too much.