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Advanced Stats: Villanova Basketball Four Factors vs. Columbia

On second look, yes the offense was ugly.

NCAA Basketball: Columbia at Villanova Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Four Factors review is back! A day or two late, yes, but it is back. I took the opportunity to watch the game for a second time (I’m a glutton) to see if I came away with the same knee-jerk reactions I had during the game.

The good news? I actually was buoyed by a lot of what I saw on the offensive end. The action was good, the shots just weren’t falling. The bad? Omari Spellman was severely under-utilized in the flow of the offense and Jermaine Samuels was clearly snorting pixie sticks before entering the game. Both are solvable problems.

The defense was pretty good, as was expected against an overmatched team.

Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) - Columbia wins by 3.6%

Offense: Game - 45.5%, Season - 45.5%, Last Year - 57.7%

Like most of you, I was pretty appalled by the sheer amount of long-range bombing I saw. 32 attempts a game is probably not where we want to be, but this has been a trend for several years now. Over-excited or anxious players may be the root cause.

And hitting just 7 of 32 (21.9%) made it feel way worse than it is. It’s important to remember though that the vast majority of these looks were wide-open and in the flow of the offense off of great ball movement. Some nights, shots just don’t fall. We’ve been there before. But whether this is a team capable of hitting a lot of threes is something to watch.

Dig a little deeper into the individual shooting lines and you might say this was just an off night:

  • Collin Gillespie, Phil Booth and Donte DiVincenzo all shot 2-5 (40%). These guys have the promise of being able to hit at a good clip.
  • Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges combined to go 1-9. Brunson’s a better shooter than that, but keep an eye on Bridges. Was his big jump last year fool’s gold? I’m guessing no.
  • Eric Paschall (0-3), Jermaine Samuels (0-3) and Omari Spellman (0-2) couldn’t find paydirt. Probably the last three guys in the rotation you want shooting from deep anyways.

Also, shame on you Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree for not launching one yourself. Everyone else was!

Defense: Game - 49.1%, Season - 49.1%, Last Year - 48.1%

The good news is that this looks like a really good defensive team. The versatility is there across the roster to switch everything like Jay wants to.

Two areas concerned me. First, Columbia’s diminutive but speedy guard Mike Smith had his way with a host of would-be defenders. Only Mikal Bridges gave him fits. Bridges is a great weapon to have, but I’m not sure we want to be utilizing him in that role every game.

The other iffy area was the trio of Villanova freshmen. Gillespie competed hard (and mostly well) but his foot speed will likely get called into question often. DaDa and Samuels were way too aggressive and sometimes got lost in the rotations. That’s to be expected of the young players and I’m sure that’ll get cleaned up. Both have the tools to be plus-defenders down the road.

Turnover Percentage (TO%) - Villanova wins by 8.8%

Offense: Game - 10.2%, Season - 10.2%, Last Year - 17.0%

JDL hit on it in his post-game points (or at least I assume he did), but one of the bright spots with a lot of new faces/roles on the floor was the lack of turnovers. Just 7 on the night against any opponent is very good, and a couple of those were Donte trying to do a bit too much which can be forgiven given his style of play.

This looks like a team that won’t have many ball-security issues this year.

Defense: Game - 19%, Season - 19%, Last Year - 20.1%

Good, not great is my headline on this one. The defensive pressure in the halfcourt looked solid for game 1, but I can’t help but continue to believe that this team needs to be in attack mode on the defensive end given the personnel available.

My guess is that Jay is trying to blend in the new guys before going full boar here. I understand that approach and quite honestly it’s the right one. I’d like to see pressing/running as a way to build big leads against these overmatched teams. And then you can mess around with different rotations, combinations, sets, etc. that he seemed to want to do last night. I’m greedy. Sorry I’m not sorry.

Offensive Rebounding Percentage (OR%) - Villanova wins by 22.5%

Offense: Game - 37.2%, Season - 37.2%, Last Year - 30.2%

If you’re looking for the area where we made up for getting beat in eFG% (yet still won by 15 points!), look here. When Jay Wright rolled out a starting lineup that included Booth (a good rebounding guard) in addition to Bridges, Paschall and Spellman, I truly worried for Columbia.

Spellman in particular is a hoss on the glass when he’s engaged. He’ll pick up points all season off of misses down there. There were several instances where Paschall and Bridges joined him crashing, and (gasp at this, I know) it reminded me of the Carolina frontlines of recent years that beat up teams through sheer force.

This won’t be a strategy per se but (hot take coming!), it’s going to be an underappreciated weapon.

Defense: Game - 14.7%, Season - 14.7%, Last Year - 27.8%

Everything I just wrote for offense, translate that here as well. My eye test says that Spellman looks like he’s right outside the elite group (think Angel Delgado) of rebounders. He gets after it. And with the other length and general gang-rebounding mentality that Wright teaches, this shouldn’t be the area of concern that it has been in years past.

Free Throw Rate (FTRate) - Villanova wins by 9%

Offense: Game - 32.8%, Season - 32.8%, Last Year - 41.8%

Not feeding Spellman (or Paschall) in the post and taking 32 three-pointers pretty much tells the story here. Brunson, Donte and Booth were able to get into the paint, but (give Columbia credit) help came pretty quickly. You can make the argument they should go up strong - Bridges did several times - but kicking it to open shooters ain’t a bad strategy either.

Pressing and running more may help here too.

Defense: Game - 21.8%, Season - 21.8%, Last Year - 22.1%

Villanova was #1 in this category a year ago, and I don’t expect there to be a big drop-off. The switching defense and general flexibility of the rotation minimizes the mismatches and the staff seems to have taught this group to abide by the ‘new’ foul rules really well.

Having some long athletes like Bridges, DiVincenzo, Paschall and Samuels that can block from behind the play erases a lot of mistakes too.

Looking Ahead: Nicholls Colonels (‘Nova 99.9% projected winner, 94-60)

Offensive Projections: eFG% - Nicholls, TO% - Nova, OR% - Nicholls, FTRate - Nicholls

It was one game, but these teams enter on opposite ends of the spectrum. Nicholls put up 111 points in a crazy game against UT-Rio Grande Valley. They aren’t very big (just one rotation player over 6’7”), but they have a lot of guys who can fill it up in a hurry. KenPom’s ‘game’ projection is based primarily on last year’s team. Nicholls appears very much improved on the offensive end if their first game is any indication.

Defensive Projections: eFG% - Nicholls, TO% - Nova, OR% - Nova, FTRate - Nova

Again, one game caveat. But Nicholls allowed 106 points in their opener. Probably safe enough to say that defense may not be their strong suit. Don’t mind the eFG% projection either because my God was Villanova bad on Friday night. The ‘Cats should find things a bit easier on Tuesday.