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Advanced Stats: Villanova Basketball Four Factors vs Creighton (Round 2)

With Ochefu out, the Cats are stepping up to the challenge on the boards.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The first 15 minutes of this game were very confusing to me.  It was like the scoreboard didn't reflect what I was seeing.  Nova was playing well, really well, but that didn't seem to matter as Creighton seemed to be able to answer with just the right play or a clutch shot to keep the game close.  Then, as if a switch was hit, Nova's 3's couldn't miss and Creighton couldn't buy a shot.  Or so it would seem.  In reality, Nova stated shutting down the boards.  Not only were they getting themselves plenty of second chances, but they weren't allowing any for the Blue Jays.  On a night without the team's best rebounder, Daniel Ochefu, we can only hope that this trend continues as we look at all Four Factors in Nova's big win.

Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) - Villanova wins by 15.7%

Offense: Game - 63%, Season - 53.5%, Last Year - 55.3%

Boy it's fun when those three's are falling!  The Cats made 16 buckets from behind the arc, one shy of a school record.  But what was most impressive was that no player made more than 4 3's.  Five wildcats shot 50% or better from deep, all of which made 2 or more.  Creighton's game plan was to fill the paint and force the Cats to beat them from deep, and they actually did a pretty good job inside holding Nova to just 40% shooting.  When Daniel Ochefu returns, it will be much harder for teams to limit inside scoring.

But the biggest story on Offense was the continued evolution of Kris Jenkins.  He lead the team in made 3's, 2's, and FT's en route to his 3rd 20+ point night of the season.  Jenkins has truly become a dual threat, learning how to finish at the rim just as well as he does behind the arc.  His shot selection has dramatically improved, shooting over 44% from 3 in his last 6 games.  If he can continue this kind of production for the rest of the season, it will be hard for opposing teams to handle the sheer number of scorers Villanova has on the court at any given time.

Defense: Game - 47.3%, Season - 44.3%, Last Year - 45.5%

Given the final score, it's easy to overlook the aggressive way Creighton came out of the gate.  While the team is built to take 3's, they still made it a point to attack the paint and see if the Wildcats could protect the rim without their big man.  While the Cats  gave up more than they'd like in the paint, they still held the Blue Jays to 46% from inside the arc.  The game was really won on the perimeter though, as Creighton was held to just 32%.  Creighton is a better team than their record would suggest, but they were simply outplayed by the Wildcats on Wednesday.

Turnover Percentage (TO%) - Creighton wins by 3.1%

Offense: Game - 18.6%, Season - 16.8%, Last Year - 16.3%

While this game was better than the last two, Villanova still has a TO% of 17% or more in their last 5 games.  This game's culprit was freshman Jalen Brunson, with a team high 4 turnovers.  Brunson was deadly from behind the arc in this game, and when he found space in the paint he was able to score.  The problem is that many times this season the freshman will just put his head down and "bull drive" his way into the paint.  Against better competition, this has often resulted in turnovers and offensive fouls.  As he continues to play, Brunson will get better at picking his spots for dribble penetration.  But for now, it's still a learning process.

Defense: Game - 15.5%, Season - 20.9%, Last Year - 21.6%

Without Ochefu to anchor the defense, the Wildcats aren't able to play as much of their pressure defense as they'd like.  The result is a dip in turnovers.  Don't get me wrong, the Cats are still aggressively defending the half court, but there's been a lot less 3/4 Press in the last two games.  For that reason, I think we can consider these lower TO numbers on defense a blip on the radar, rather than any kind of serious trend.

Offensive Rebound Percentage (OR%) - Villanova wins by 11.6%

Offense: Game - 31%, Season - 30.7%, Last Year - 32.5%

When it was announced earlier this week that Daniel Ochefu would be out with a concussion, my first thought was that I hope he has a speedy recovery.  The second thought was that Darryl Reynolds needs to step up.  And step up he did.  In his 2 starts without Ochefu, Reynolds is averaging over 10 rebounds per game.  Against Creighton, he was the only Wildcat with multiple offensive rebounds, grabbing 6 in total.  While his scoring can still improve, Reynolds has stepped up to the challenge when his team needed him the most.

Defense: Game - 19.4%, Season - 30%, Last Year - 31.2%

One of my favorite things about college basketball is that teams can make significant improvements over the course of a season.  A perfect example of this has been Villanova's rebounding.  Early in the season, Nova went on a 6 game stretch of allowing an OR% of 30% or more.  Wednesday marked the first time all season that Villanova held their opponents to an OR% of under 20% in back to back games.  What's more impressive is that they did it without Ochefu.  The guards have really stepped up their rebounding, and that's a trend that will need to continue through the rest of the season.

Free Throw Rate (FTRate) - Villanova wins by 12.1%

Offense: Game - 31.5%, Season - 33.7%, Last Year - 41.8%

Fun fact: Villanova has the 14th best FT% in the country at 75.8%.  Not So Fun Fact: They're 253rd in FTRate this season at 33.7%.  Now in fairness, that number is on the rise.  The Cats are up to a 38.7% FTRate in conference play, and they've gone over 43% in 4 of their last 6 games.  Villanova did especially well at the line in this game.  Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart, and Kris Jenkins all were perfect from the charity stripe while Mikal Bridges lead the team in attempts, going 4 for 5.  This is just another area where the Cats are improving this season, continuing their upward trend.

Defense: Game - 23.6%, Season - 30.3%, Last Year - 30.4%

While the offensive free throw numbers continue to trend up, the defensive numbers are heading down (and that's a good thing!).  The Cat's have held their opponents to under 30% FTRate in 4 of their last 5 games.  Even without their rim protector, Villanova has stayed disciplined and under control on defense.  But even when they do let a player on the line, some defensive credit needs to go to the Villanova student section.  They don't need a "Curtain of Distraction", a rousing rendition of "John-Jacob-Jingleheimer-Schmidt" seems to do the trick just fine.

Looking Ahead: Providence Friars (Villanova 67% projected winner, 69-65)

Offensive Projected Winners: eFG% - Nova, TO% - Prov, OR% - Nova, FTRate - Prov

This game becomes almost impossible to predict without knowing if the big men (Daniel Ochefu and Ben Bentil) will be in action.  If only one is active, that team has a clear advantage.  Either way, Villanova will have to shoot well if they want to keep from getting swept by Providence this season.  That's easier said than done, especially at the Dunk.

Defensive Projected Winners: eFG% - Nova, TO% - Nova, OR% - Prov, FTRate - Nova

Nova's defense has been stellar this season, but the Providence game comes down to two players: Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil.  If Villanova can limit them, which again is easier said than done, then Providence has struggled in finding a 3rd scoring option.  If Bentil is out, you can bet Dunn will see some double teams.