As exciting as the final minutes of this game were, the word I'd use to describe Sunday is "lacking". It applied to almost everything about the day. The arena was lacking enough workers to put the Villanova logos on the court. The seats were lacking over 10,000 fans who bought tickets for the game but couldn't make it due to the blizzard. The sidelines were lacking Villanova's band and cheerleaders, whose bus was buried in snow. My crab fries were lacking enough cheese sauce (although that always seems to be the case).
But most importantly, the Wildcats themselves seemed to be lacking. It wasn't that they were lacking effort, they were diving all over the floor. They weren't lacking energy either, they had an extra day off to recover from Wednesday's late night in New Jersey. No, what Villanova lacked in today's game was discipline. Not only were they making repeated mental mistakes, but this looked like the same team that forced up 3's against Oklahoma a few months back. Throw in 31 points by Bentil and 14 assists from Dunn, and it's not surprising that Villanova lost three of the Four Factors in this one.
At the end of the day, this isn't a loss to be upset about. In fact, after looking at the state of the rest of the NCAA's "elite" teams, we're actually in a great spot. Of the teams in the national championship talks, only Oklahoma and Villanova have avoided losing to any unranked teams. Also, Villanova hasn't lost a game at the Pavilion. Yesterday's game will go down as a home court loss, but trust me, it didn't have the same feel as a normal home game. Villanova is still considered one of the best in the country, they're still in competition for a 1 seed, and I still need more cheese sauce for my crab fries.
Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) - Providence wins by 1.5%
Offense: Game - 50.8%, Season - 53.7%, Last Year - 55.3%
Let's start with the positives. Ryan Arcidiacono did what a senior leader should do and put this team on his back. Not only did he lead the team with 19 points, but he got those points on 57% shooting inside the arc, 40% shooting from behind the arc, and 83% shooting from the free throw line. And what Villanova season would be complete without Arch hitting a clutch three late at the WFC? As a group the Wildcats assisted on over 77% of their made shots, which was key to attacking Providence's zone.
But that zone was also what lulled Villanova back into a false sense of security behind the three point line, going just 9 for 31. This was the first game since their win over Delaware that the Wildcats took 50% or more of their shots from behind the arc. After the game, Head Coach Jay Wright commented on the three point shooting:
"I think we regressed a little bit. We just settled, we took the first one. Everybody just trying to get a three rather than make the right play, you know, out of aggressiveness. That's how we played earlier in the year. We've been getting better at that. We fell back into it tonight."
The player this hurt the most was Daniel Ochefu. Even with only 3 FG attempts, he was still by far the most efficient offensive player on the court for 20+ minutes. He posted an offensive rating of 145, and to put that into perspective, Bentil's offensive rating was 127. The Cats had been doing such a great job of running the offense through the paint, either getting Ochefu touches or drawing defenders off him with penetration. Hopefully like Jay said, this is just a lapse rather than a step in the wrong direction for the offense.
Defense: Game - 52.3%, Season - 44.3%, Last Year - 45.5%
Kris Dunn is a special player. Sunday he showed why he's such a highly projected NBA point guard, because he can make everyone else on the court better. That's a lot easier when one of those players is fellow NBA prospect Ben Bentil. Both of Providence's stars had fantastic games on both ends of the court. That being said, Nova didn't have a terrible day defensively. Sure, giving up 31 points to a single player is a little disheartening, but there were a lot of positives to take away from this game.
While this was a sloppy game on both sides, Nova did an excellent job creating and capitalizing on turnovers. Every Villanova player had at least one steal in this game, which means they were active in the passing lanes and disrupting the flow of Providence's offense. They forced Bentil and the supporting cast to beat them, preventing the team's leading scorer from getting his shots. And they didn't get completely outclassed on the boards like we've seen in previous games, although there's still room for improvement. In the end, I think you have to give credit to a great coach and two outstanding players for taking what the defense gave them and finding a way to win.
Turnover Percentage (TO%) - Nova wins by 0.8%
Offense: Game - 21.1%, Season - 16.2%, Last Year - 16.3%
This was a brutal game for ball control, filled with sloppy play and mental mistakes. Villanova's 16 turnovers were the most they've had in a game all season. They're now averaging over 12 TO's per game in conference play with a TO% of 18.2% (2% over the season average). What was once one of Nova's greatest strengths, especially because it allowed them to dictate the pace of play, has now become an area where they're middle of the pack. There was plenty of blame to go around, as every Wildcat had at least one turnover. But the number that stands out the most is Phil Booth's 4. This is Booth's second consecutive game with 3 or more turnovers, and as one of the point guards, that simply isn't acceptable. Of the three, Booth is more susceptible to turnovers due to his ability to drive and finish at the rim, so I'm going to hope this is a coincidence and not a trend.
Defense: Game - 22.4%, Season - 20.8%, Last Year - 21.6%
In true Villanova fashion, when one aspect of the offense isn't working, the team turns up the heat on defense. The Cats were able to generate 17 turnovers, their most since the Xavier game. As I mentioned before, every player on the team had at least one steal, and Jalen Brunson lead the defense with 3. They forced Kris Dunn into 6 turnovers, his second most all season. Frankly, it was the turnovers that kept giving Villanova second chances and extra possessions to turn missed threes into points and keep the game close.
Offensive Rebounding Percentage (OR%) - Providence wins by 10.3%
Offense: Game - 31.4%, Season - 30.7%, Last Year - 32.5%
I actually thought Nova did OK on the offensive glass in this game. The Cats had double digit OR's (11) for the first time in their last 5 games, and Daniel Ochefu was responsible for more than half of them (6). While it's still a work in progress, Villanova's offensive rebounding has actually gotten better over the past several weeks. Now that's not to say that it's a strength, but I think it's safe to say that it's no longer a weakness. Progress is progress, even if it's baby steps.
Defense: Game - 41.7%, Season - 31.3%, Last Year - 31.2%
The same can't be said for defensive rebounds. The Friars got far too many second chance boards (15) for Villanova to even attempt to pull away in the second half. Jenkins and Ochefu had 5 defensive boards a piece and Hart had 4, but only Ochefu (11) had more than 5 total rebounds. The big man can't do it alone, especially not when he's coming off the bench. Mikal Bridges and Darryl Reynolds will need to make a bigger impact on the boards, and the point guards will have to contribute too, if this team is going to improve their rebounding.
Free Throw Rate (FTRate) - Providence wins by 0.2%
Offense: Game - 29%, Season - 33.3%, Last Year - 41.8%
The other consequence of settling for 3-pointers is that you don't get nearly as many attempts from the line. This number should be even lower if the Friars didn't make two ill-advised fouls on Brunson while he was shooting 3's, handing him 6 attempts at the line. Take those away, and Nova's FTRate is a dismal 19.3%. Ryan Arcidiacono was clutch from the line late and Ochefu went 3 of 4 when he took it at Bentil, but overall the team oblidged when Providence dared them to beat them from outside with the zone. Jay said after the game that it's easier to learn from a loss than a win, and I'd say it's a good bet that you'll see Nova back to working in the paint against St. John's next weekend.
Defense: Game - 29.2%, Season - 31.1%, Last Year - 30.4%
Considering that the Cats were forced to foul late in regulation and overtime to extend the game, they actually did a fantastic job of keeping the Friars off the line. As I've said before, when the Cats under perform offensively, they tend to ramp up the defensive effort, and that's always a positive sign moving forward. I'd say this was just a blip on the radar, but even when forced to foul they stayed under their season average. At least if the offense isn't being disciplined, the same can't be said about the defense.
Looking Forward - St. John's Red Storm (Villanova 95% projected winner, 76-59)
Offensive Projected Winners: eFG% - Nova, TO% - Nova, OR% - Nova, FTRate - Nova
The last thing that the last place Johnnies want to see this weekend is a Villanova team more focused and determined to win than at any other point in the season. Not only has Villanova made MSG their "home away from home" by winning their last 8 games there, but they're projected to beat St. Johns in each of the Four Factors. Look for Villanova to run almost everything through the paint on this one. I'm not saying they won't take 3's, but they'll come from kick-out's rather than first look shots.
Defensive Projected Winners: eFG% - Nova, TO% - Nova, OR% - STJ, FTRate - Nova
This could get ugly really fast. Nova ranks in the top 20 in defensive eFG% and the top 50 in defensive TO%. Conversely, St. John's ranks in the bottom 25 in offensive eFG% and the bottom 75 in offensive TO%. Between frequent turnovers and an inability to find the basket, there's not a lot of home in NYC. This one smells like a blow out from a mile away, and coming off a loss the Wildcats are unlikely to overlook their opponent.