The Villanova Wildcats are potentially 72 hours away from heading back to their second final four in three seasons. Standing in their way are the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games this weekend in Boston, both of which yours truly will be attending. Of course I’ll be cheering on the team with every fiber of my being while I’m at the game, but it’s been my experience that my actions tend to have little to no effect on the team’s performance.
But still, in case I’m wrong, I figured I would do some deep dives and find every morsel of data I could to psych myself up for the big weekend ahead. What I found was a treasure trove of
mainly useless knowledge that all fans probably could care less about must know heading into tonight’s game.
Villanova has lost zero games this season when Phil Booth starts and all nine rotation players get on the court.
The other way to say this is when the Wildcats are healthy, they don’t lose. Villanova has lost just four games this season, and each of those can be linked to one or multiple injuries.
Gillespie was the first casualty of hand-pocalypse when they lost to Butler. Booth and Paschall were both out for the only home loss of the season to St. John’s. Booth was still out during the worst Valentines day I’ve had since meeting my wife, aka the Providence loss. And finally, Booth was still coming off the bench in his second game back when the team lost in overtime at Creighton.
I’m not saying that those losses were solely attributed to the injuries Villanova was dealing with, but I am saying that the team is 100% healthy right now (quick, everyone reading this knock on wood!).
Villanova is now within the KenPom Top 20 “Championship Threshold”.
With the exception of 2014 UConn, every National Champion in the KenPom era has finished their season ranked in the Top 20 in both Adjusted Offensive Efficiency and Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. Villanova has spent most of the year as the #1 Offense, but there were some concerns down the stretch about their defense which had spent significant time ranked in the 30’s and 40’s.
But as we’ve seen through five post-season games so far, Villanova’s defense has started to really come together. KenPom’s noticed too, and after drubbing Alabama the Wildcats have are now ranked 19th in Adj. Defense. Their defense is peaking at the right time, and hopefully it will stay at a Top 20 level for four more games.
Tonight is Jalen Brunson’s 100th consecutive start
Villanova’s undisputed leader is about to hit the century mark in consecutive games started for the Wildcats. Assuming he leaves after this season, he’ll come up just shy of the record (106 by Harold Pressley). He’d actually already have the record if a stomach illness his freshman year hadn’t knocked him out of the starting lineup. Even in the only game he didn’t start in his Villanova career, Brunson managed 9 points and 2 assists off the bench.
But what this illustrates more than anything else is Brunson’s consistency. He’s the most reliable player in Villanova’s lineup, and that’s a big reason why he’s the team’s best player. Putting up a line of .535/.420/.803 for the season is damn near impossible considering he’s responsible for more possessions than anyone else on the team, but that’s what Jalen Brunson F#&%ing does.
Villanova’s biggest statistical weakness is fixable... by us!
Remember when I said there was nothing I could do that would have an effect on the team? Turns out I was wrong. By far the Wildcat’s worst ranking on defense is free throw percentage, where they just edged out Cal Poly to avoid being in the bottom 20 in the country. That’s right, Villanova ranks 331st in defending free throws.
There’s not much the team can do about this one, as it’s generally frowned upon to jump up and swat free throws. But this is where Nova Nation needs to step up their game. Fan distractions are the only acceptable form of free throw defense that the NCAA permits, and we need to take full advantage of that.
Enough with John-Jacob, our opponents have figured that one out. The best FT% defense in the country right now belongs to BYU, so maybe cut out the coffee and pray they miss? The best FT% team left in the tournament is Purdue. This makes sense as well, I too would be distracted if Isaac Haas’s face was next to the rim while I was trying to shoot.
Whatever we go with, be sure to put it in the comments below so we can all be on the same page. Or maybe if we all do different things it will throw them off more? The science is out on this one, but we have to try SOMETHING. The team needs us!!!