I'm not going to lie, I felt a little like Nostradamus after this game. I'm sure many of you did too. For the past few weeks we've been saying that another poor shooting night was coming, and it did. I was afraid that when that day came, the weaknesses that we've been harping on all season would be exposed and Nova would drop a game they shouldn't have. Well, Nova shot poorly, they turned the ball over, they got in foul trouble, and they lost the game.
Wait, what do you mean they won? How did they do that? INTERIOR PLAY, OFFENSIVE REBOUNDING, AND FREE THROWS!?!? Excuse me while I go look up flights to Houston.
It's always great to see your team shoot well, but when they start improving and excelling in their trouble areas, that's something to get excited about! Now yes, the Cats only won Two of the Four Factors, and had Seton Hall's offense performed better they would have been in a lot more trouble. But Nova won the battle of the boards on both sides of the court and made 30 trips to the free throw line. I can't walk away from that with anything but a smile on my face.
Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) - Seton Hall wins by 1%
Offense: Game - 39.7%, Season - 55%, Last Year - 55.3%
It was a rough night for Nova, especially from deep. Kris Jenkins (11 points) was the only Wildcat to hit from deep in the first half, and even he finished just 3-10 for the game. Josh Hart added one more three, but the team as a whole went just 4-22 (18%). But unlike the last time they only made 4 threes against Oklahoma, Nova was going inside first and Daniel Ochefu took full advantage of the opportunity. The big man went just 6-13 from the field, but added 8-10 shooting from the charity stripe for a season high 20 points. Hart and Ryan Arcidiacono each shot 57% from inside the arc and added 15 and 11 points respectively. While the Cats did a great job adjusting to their poor shooting, they'll need to get back on track as they head to Hinkle Fieldhouse to face the second best offense in the Big East.
Defense: Game - 40.7%, Season - 43.7%, Last Year - 45.5%
While the offense has been up and down all season, Villanova's defense has been consistently excellent all year. The Wildcats showed why they lead the conference in defensive efficiency, posting their best eFG% in conference play. Seton Hall was held to just 35% from inside the arc and all of their starters shot under 46% from the field. The Pirates cold shooting didn't help, but a big part of that can be credited to Villanova's pressure defense. I think it's safe to say that the Seton Hall players were visibly frustrated.
Turnover Percentage (TO%) - Seton Hall wins by 1.5%
Offense: Game - 19.1%, Season - 15.6%, Last Year - 16.3%
For the second straight game and 3rd in the last 5, the Wildcats turned the ball over on over 19% of their possessions. But unlike the previous games, the point guards weren't the ones turning it over. The big culprits in this game were Ochefu and Hart, each with 3 turnovers. They were losing the ball while attacking the basket and trying to drive the paint, and that's a little more excusable than simply throwing it away. It was a tough game with sloppy ball handling on both sides, so this one felt like more of an anomaly than another game of poor ball control.
Defense: Game - 17.6%, Season - 21.9%, Last Year - 21.6%
Despite getting Seton Hall to turn the ball over 12 times, this game was actually below the defense's average TO%. It's normal for a teams numbers to drop a bit in conference play. Not only is the competition generally better, but they're all familiar with your system and what you do. Regardless, this was still a good showing by the defense as they were able to be disruptive on the perimeter as well as in the paint. While it's a small sample size, the Cats are only 5th in defensive TO% in the Big East during conference play. I expect that rank will go up as the season continues.
Offensive Rebound Percentage (OR%) - Villanova wins by 8.8%
Offense: Game - 42.9%, Season - 31.6%, Last Year - 32.5%
Well that was a surprise! Villanova used great positioning to attack the offensive glass and get plenty of second chance points. It was a vast improvement over the previous game's 0% OR%. But this is what Nova needed to win the game. That's something I've come to love about this team. Since the Virginia game, Nova has done whatever it takes to win games. When one area (shooting, rebounding, etc.) isn't working for the Cats, they step up their game in other areas. That's the type of play that will bring a 3rd Big East Regular Season Championship to the Main Line. As for the offensive rebounding, this is what we need to see more of, especially from Ochefu. He seems to be getting better every game, and in every aspect of his game.
Defense: Game - 34.1%, Season - 32.6%, Last Year - 31.2%
Six Wildcats finished with 3 defensive rebounds or fewer. That's because Daniel Ochefu was grabbing everything in sight with 12. On a night when your opponent is shooting cold, it's important to keep them from getting any second chances for points. Hart added 6 as well, but this was really Ochefu's night as he dominated the glass on both ends of the court. While Villanova still allowed 15 offensive rebounds, the defense was able to limit Seton Hall's ability to do anything with them.
Free Throw Rate (FTRate) - Villanova wins by 12.8%
Offense: Game - 55.2%, Season - 30.9%, Last Year - 41.8%
A lot of people will say that Villanova got to the free throw line so many times last night because of Seton Hall's "rough" style of play. But it's because the Wildcats knew that and specifically game planned to attack the defense to draw fouls that it happened. If the Cats had settled for 3's when shots weren't falling inside the arc, they don't get to the line and they don't build a lead. I give all the credit for this one to Head Coach Jay Wright for taking a strength of the opposing team (tough, grinding defense) and turning it into a weakness. But like everything else in this game, the big contributor was Ochefu. Not only did he get to the charity stripe 10 times, but he shot 80%.
Defense: Game - 42.4%, Season - 31.4%, Last Year - 30.4%
Any game that turns into a cold shooting grind is going to get rough. Players are frustrated and look to compensate for poor shooting with "playing harder". These games will often have a higher FTRate for both teams as players look to either draw fouls on offense or somehow contribute on defense. This game was no exception, but Villanova did a decent job of keeping their composure when the whistles started coming. Only Kris Jenkins finished the game with 4 fouls, as opposed to Seton Hall who saw four starters get 4 or more. It's that composure that has allowed Nova to play the type of pressure defense they do while committing a surprisingly low number of fouls. Look for this style to continue to pay dividends through the rest of the season.
Looking Ahead: Butler Bulldogs (Villanova 67% Projected Winner, 78-73)
Offensive Projections: eFG% - Nova, TO% - Nova, OR% - Nova, FTRate - Butler
Nova won't have the luxury of being able to endure a cold shooting night again, as this one could end up being a barn burner in Indy. Butler is middle of the pack on defense, but they're not slouches either. The Wildcats biggest challenge will still be getting to the line. They may need to in order to keep up with Butler's offense. Villanova should be able to control the ball though, as Butler really hasn't been a threat this season at causing turnovers.
Defensive Projections: eFG% - Nova, TO% - Butler, OR% - Butler, FTRate - Nova
This is where the game will be won or lost. Nova is an exceptional defensive team, but Butler can really shoot the ball. When they do miss, they're also an exceptional offensive rebounding team. In addition, Nova will have trouble creating turnovers against the Bulldogs, who are currently ranked #1 in the country in offensive TO%. The good news is that like most shooting teams, Butler doesn't get to the line often. If Nova can create some turnovers and force Butler into contested shots, they'll have a chance at winning this game with defense instead of it turning into a shoot out.