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March Madness: The History of Villanova vs. Press Virginia

The Wildcats went 3-3 against Huggins-led Mountaineer teams

Murray State v West Virginia Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images

There will be a little Big East nostalgia on display in Boston this Friday when Jay Wright and Villanova take on Bob Huggins and West Virginia. The two schools faced each other six times from 2007-08 through 2011-12 when both coaches were at the helm with each school wining three apiece. Before we look behind the numbers in those matchups, here’s a brief rundown of how they played out:

Feb. 20, 2008: Villanova 78, West Virginia 56

Feb. 13, 2009: West Virginia 93, Villanova 72

Feb. 8, 2010: Villanova 82, West Virginia 75

March 6, 2010: West Virginia 68, Villanova 66 (OT)

Feb. 5, 2011: Villanova 66, West Virginia 50

Dec. 28, 2011: West Virginia 83, Villanova 69

A little context here before we dig deeper. These were both successful programs during this five-year run. West Virginia made the NCAA tournament all five seasons, while Villanova only missed the tournament in the season of the final matchup. So while the players are different, these were all high-level Big East games with the exception of maybe one.

To see how each defense affected each other, a closer look was taken at the FG%, 3PT% and TO rate of each team during those matchups. Below is a look at each school’s average in each against each school’s average during that five-year time frame.

West Virginia 07-12

West Virginia from 07-08 through 11-12 FG% 3PT% TO/G
West Virginia from 07-08 through 11-12 FG% 3PT% TO/G
Against everyone 43.6 33.1 12
Against Villanova 41.3 29.3 11.5
The difference -2.3 -2.8 -0.5

Villanova 07-12

Villanova from 07-08 through 11-12 FG% 3PT% TO/G
Villanova from 07-08 through 11-12 FG% 3PT% TO/G
Against everyone 43.8 34.6 13.4
Against West Virginia 47.5 36.3 14.3
The difference 3.7 1.7 0.9

As you can see, there are noticeable differences here. Quite simply, West Virginia’s shooting percentage decreased against Villanova, while the Wildcats saw their percentages increase, while committing an extra turnover per game. Nothing major on either end, but also not completely insignificant. And while they haven’t met in six years, they play virtually the same style with maybe a little extra pressure from West Virginia and more reliance on the 3-point shot from Villanova.

Again digging deeper, the next step was to see if there was any past meeting where the teams produced at similar levels offensively and defensively to what they produced this season. Using KenPom’s offensive and defensive efficiency rating as a guide, there are no meetings where the teams played even comparable offense. That’s not overly surprising when you consider Villanova might be the best offensive team ever in the KenPom era.

However, both teams had comparable defensive years to this season. Villanova’s 95.4 adjusted D rating is similar to their 95.0 in 2007-08 and 96.0 in 2009-10. In their three meetings during those seasons, West Virginia shot below their season average FG and 3-point percentages in their meetings, and the Wildcats went 2-1. According to KenPom, this year’s West Virginia team is a better offensive team than both those seasons but a worse defensive team.

West Virginia had a similar adjusted D rating in 2012 (97.9) compared to this season (97.1) and won the 2012 meeting. In that game, Villanova shot the ball better from the field but worse from long-range compared to their season averages. This was also the lone year during the five-year window that Villanova missed the NCAA tournament.

So what does this tell us? Well, it’s hard to make any grand conclusions when you consider Friday’s game will feature completely different players who have never faced each other at the college level. But it is safe to say that Huggins and West Virginia’s unique style of play hasn’t significantly bothered Villanova in the past. If anything, they’ve fared pretty well against it.