It was an ugly game. Let's just get it out of the way. It was an ugly game, it was a terrible second half, and it was hard to watch as Oklahoma scored at will to beat Villanova 78-55. But there are a few things it wasn't. It wasn't the end of the world, or the season for that matter. It wasn't an indicator of how this team will play in March, no December game is. And most importantly, it wasn't ALL bad. Granted, it was mostly bad, but there were a few things to take away from this game as Villanova won two of the Four Factors in their first loss of the season.
Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) - Oklahoma wins by 23.4%
Offense: Game - 34.9%, Year Avg - 51%, Last Year Avg - 55.3%
If there's one thing I've learned from my many years of watching basketball, it's that you're not going to win if you can't put the ball in the basket (it's in the name). Villanova had their worst eFG% of the season, and by far their worst night from behind the arc. Now part of that can be attributed to a poor night shooting, every team is going to have a few. Also, a lot of credit needs to be given to an Oklahoma team that was both fast and disciplined (sounds familiar), and was quick to get out on shooters.
But the biggest problem this team faced last night, and all season, was shot selection. You're not going to make every shot you take, but you need to give yourself the best shot you can get. I have no problem with this team taking 30+ 3's a game, but not if most of them are contested. If your opponent is that good defensively, which Oklahoma was, then take a contested shot while driving the lane so that you have a chance at going to the line. Too many times I saw a player jack up a contested 3 from 4 feet behind the arc. I know it's hard not to take those shots when Oklahoma is draining them in your face on the other end, but that's when the team needs to remain poised and play Villanova basketball.
Defense: Game - 58.3%, Year Avg - 41.6%, Last Year Avg - 45.5%
During the broadcast I heard one of the announcers quote Jay Wright saying, "Oklahoma looks like his team a year from now". I have to disagree. The Sooners aren't Villanova a year from now, they're Villanova a year ago. Hitting everything from behind the arc, strong perimeter defense, it was like watching one of the hot shooting nights Nova had last season. And despite what was actually a solid performance inside the arc by the 'Cats defense (held OK to 41% shooting), everything was falling for Oklahoma from behind the arc. While there's no argument that Villanova can't keep starting games flat, this defense will continue to play at an elite level going forward. Monday was just an example of how it will take a ridiculous night shooting in order to beat it.
Turnover Percentage (TO%) - Villanova wins by 7%
Offense: Game - 12.7%, Year Avg - 13.5%, Last Year Avg - 16.3%
Death, Taxes, and Villanova maintaining possession. Even when shots weren't falling, Villanova held onto the ball. But in this game, that was a problem for me. One reason Oklahoma has such a great defense is that they shut down teams in the paint and force them to win from behind the arc. You know, the Villanova strategy. While the Sooners aren't as good as the Cats at creating turnovers in transition or with pressure, they stay anchored in the paint and create indecision on dribble drives.
In the first half, VIllanova was able to get back into the game from inside the arc. Sure, dribble penetration against a "stay at home" defense will result in a lower shot percentage and more turnovers. But frankly, they couldn't shoot worse than they already were, and they could afford a few more turnovers if it's the only opportunity for points. In the second half, the Wildcats settled for quick, contested threes. Even though it has the same result, throwing the ball to the other team doesn't count as a turnover if it hits the rim first.
Defense: Game - 19.7%, Year Avg - 23.1%, Last Year Avg - 21.6%
Villanova did a great job putting pressure on Oklahoma in transition and anytime they entered the paint. They even did a decent job getting out to the 3 point line on shooters. But when a team is shooting well from 3-5 feet beyond the line, there's no amount of turnovers that will get you back in the game.
However, this game wasn't completely void of things for Wildcat fans to get excited about. Enter Mikal Bridges. Despite only scoring 5 points on the night, the 6'7" swing man shot 40% from the field, lead the team in offensive rebounds and steals with 3 of each, and had the highest offensive rating of any Villanova player. Sure, Bridges still has his moments where he looks like a freshman, but he's improving rapidly and is already a reason why Villanova's defense is so good. It seems that every year Wright has a new tall guard that can defend and shoot (Bell, Hilliard, Hart, and now Bridges), and I can't wait to watch this kid develop into another strong player and team leader.
Offensive Rebounding Percentage (OR%) - Oklahoma wins by 3.6%
Offense: Game - 21.4%, Year Avg - 30.7%, Last Year Avg - 32.5%
Despite the loss, Daniel Ochefu didn't have too bad of an outing. The Villanova big man almost had a double-double, finishing with 8 points and 10 rebounds on 50% shooting. He also had what I thought was the highlight of the night for Villanova. But when you're one of the best offensive rebounders in the country (ranked 25th after the game), and your team can't buy a bucket, and you've got a decent size advantage on the majority of the opposing team, you're expected to grab second chance boards. Ochefu only came down with one.
But I can't put all the blame on the big man, because he doesn't decide how long he's in the game. Ochefu is only averaging about 20 minutes per game, the lowest of any Villanova starter and even behind 6th man Phil Booth. This is almost a 10% drop from his minutes last year, and it just doesn't make sense to me. Prior to getting just 21 minutes in the Oklahoma game, only more than Reynolds and DiVincenzo, Ochefu was held to 17 minutes or fewer for 3 straight games. I get that fouls have been an issue, but too many times I think Jay is trying to prevent Ochefu from getting fouls, which has the same effect. There's no question that the big man needs to cut down on the infractions, but Jaw Wright needs to trust his senior captain to be able to play with fouls. He's just too good to keep off the court.
Defesne: Game - 25%, Year Avg - 33.8%, Last Year Avg - 31.2%
One of the positives from this game was, surprisingly, the rebounding. I know it's hard to believe, but Oklahoma didn't make every shot they took. Nova did a great job limiting second chance points. Lead by Ochefu's 9 defensive rebounds, the team posted their second best defensive OR% of the season. Josh Hart had 4 defensive rebounds, and Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges each added 3 of their own. Oklahoma normally pulls down almost 35% of their offensive boards, so it's definitely a good sign that Villanova was able to improve in an area they've struggled all season.
Free Throw Rate (FTRate) - Villanova wins by 7.1%
Offense: Game - 25.4%, Year Avg - 27%, Last Year Avg - 41.8%
When shots weren't falling in the first half, Villanova started attacking the paint. And surprise, surprise, it worked! Not only were the Cats scoring, they started getting opportunities at the line. The comeback was fuled by an 8 for 11 effort from the charity stripe in the first half. And then, they stopped. Villanova only had 5 free throw attempts in the second half as they continued to put up contested 3's. Some credit should go to adjustments made by the Sooners, but Villanova has capable athletes who can drive and force the issue. Phil Booth was the lone bright spot at the line, going 5 for 5, but even he started settling for jumpers in the second half. Teams aren't going to gift you fouls, you have to go and earn them, something Villanova continues to struggle with.
Defense: Game - 18.3%, Year Avg - 25.8%, Last Year Avg - 30.4%
Defense without fouling has been the Wildcats calling card this season, and their efforts continued to pay off against Oklahoma. The Sooners only got 2 attempts at the line in the first half, and even that came on a questionable call. But as good as a team can be without fouling, it doesn't stop 3-pointers. This was just a night where Oklahoma found a way to circumvent Villanova's strengths, and there aren't many teams in the country who will be able to do that this season.
Looking Ahead - La Salle (Nova 97% projected winner)
Offensive Projected Winners: eFG% - Nova, TO% - Nova, OR% - Nova, FTRate - LaSalle
Villanova heads back to the friendly confines of the Pavillion on Sunday where they'll look to bounce back from a terrible shooting performance. They couldn't ask for a better opponent, facing a La Salle team that's giving up an average eFG% of over 50 on the season. The Cats should be running on all cylinders, with the exception of FTRate which will probably remain low as the Explorers give up A LOT of open shots.
Defensive Projected Winners: eFG% - Nova, TO% - Nova, OR% - LaSalle, FTRate - Nova
Nova's defense should be back on track against an Explorers team that is only shooting 33% from three. The Wildcats should continue to dominate, and should even see an up-tick in OR% with La Salle only having one player over 6'7". This game should be a good bounce back following a night where Oklahoma lit up Villanova for 14 threes.