We’ll get into everything Villanova did wrong in a minute, but let’s start with me and my heaping portion of crow. I was so very wrong on Villanova coming into this game, both in how prepared they were and how the game went. Let’s just say I’m very lucky I didn’t have money on this one.
This could easily be Villanova’s worst game of the season, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Early losses give you a lot to learn from, and it usually means there’s no where to go but up. And to find out what lessons need to be learned, let’s dive into the Four Factors.
Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) - Michigan wins by 20.4%
Offense: Game - 35.2%, Season - 52.2%, Last Year - 59.5%
Well that was simply awful offense. It was Villanova’s worst shooting night since they got crushed by Oklahoma in 2015. The difference was that team was launching ill-advised threes that weren’t connecting. This team only took 15 three point attempts, their fewest since the 2016 National Championship game. Even that’s misleading, because Michigan did such a great job running the Wildcats off the three point line. No, the problem last night was that the Wildcats shot a terrible 37.9% from inside the arc.
The biggest cause for the poor shooting was a lack of ball movement. The entire night the Wildcats drove the ball into the teeth of Michigan’s defense. When they drew the help defender, instead of kicking the ball out they would try to continue dribbling through the defense to the basket. Now trapped inside the defense and their kick-out pass defended, they would commit the ultimate basketball no-no and pick up their dribble under the basket. Now they either had to take a VERY contested shot, or make a tough pass out of the paint.
The #1 culprit was Eric Paschall. Trying to put the team on his back and solve all their scoring woes by himself, the big man ended up going 3 for 13 inside the arc. But he wasn’t the only one to make this mistake. In fact, only Saddiq Bey and Cole Swider finished the night shooting better than 50% from inside, going a combined 3 for 3.
Defense: Game - 55.4%, Season - 48.1%, Last Year - 48.5%
Despite the atrocious optics, the numbers weren’t terrible defensively. They weren’t good by any means, but they weren’t terrible. The Wildcats held Michigan under 30% shooting from deep, although they weren’t a great deep shooting team to begin with. Either way, the Wolverines didn’t really need the long ball as they were able to drive to the basket at will.
Michigan had six players shoot 50% or better inside the arc, and that had a lot to do with Nova’s attempts to stop them one on one. Collin Gillespie got burnt a lot in this game, but I can’t put the blame solely on his shoulders. This was truly a team collapse. First there were the players, like Gillespie, that were getting beaten off the dribble. Then there was no help defense behind them to defend the basket. Once Wright pointed that out to the team, everyone helped and left people wide open all over the court. There were points when Nova’s defense looked like a kids soccer game with everyone chasing after the ball. It was, for lack of a better term, embarrassing.
There’s a disconnect with this team that we haven’t seen in a long time. To be fair, it’s not necessarily their fault. We’ve become accustomed to teams with three or four upperclassmen on the court to direct the defense, cover mistakes by younger players still learning the system, and execute flawlessly. Today’s rotation has five players that are brand new to the system, three that have only had a year to pick it up (less if you count injuries), and then two seniors trying to make up for the mistakes. The defense needs time more than anything, so it’s unlikely this is the last hiccup we see on that side of the ball.
Turnover Percentage (TO%) - Michigan wins by 21.9%
Offense: Game - 32.8%, Season - 22.1%, Last Year - 15.0%
The single biggest reason Villanova lost this game was turnovers. Michigan had 25 points off 21 Wildcat turnovers. And it wasn’t like they just had a bad half, Villanova had double digit turnovers in both halves. What made it worse is that the errors weren’t coming from wide eyed freshmen caught up in the big game. 57% of the team’s turnovers were committed by Collin Gillespie (5), Phil Booth (4), and Eric Paschall (3).
Gillespie showed tonight that he’s a scorer, not a ball handler. When he found a lane he was fine, but too often he tried to drive through the defense and simply dribbled the ball away. Booth didn’t do much better, forcing bad passes and making head-scratching decisions with the ball. Paschall simply tried to do too much and either drew offensive fouls or lost control. The rest of the team followed their leadership, with everyone that played except Joe Cremo committing a turnover.
There will be a lot of drills around decision making and passing in the next few practices. The team needs to prioritize keeping the ball moving, rather than standing still with it and letting the defense fill up the passing lanes. Once the defense cuts off their outlets, players feel like they have to do something by themselves. Not only does that play right into what the defense wants, but it kills Villanova’s defense.
Defense: Game - 10.9%, Season - 15.8%, Last Year - 18.2%
Even if you eliminated all the points off turnovers in this game, the Wildcats still lose by a possession. Outside of one strong defensive possession early on, they couldn’t get any pressure on Michigan’s ball handlers. They couldn’t stay in front of their men, they couldn’t execute the press, and they never even attempted a zone. This was an epic fail from the coaching on down.
The big question of the night: where was Villanova’s point guard of the future, Jahvon Quinnerly, in all this? He only had 8 minutes for the game, and only 3 in the first half when all the damage was done. Wright is going to need him to get up to game speed fast, and that doesn’t happen on the bench. In a game like this where Nova was down by at least 20 for nearly 25 minutes, how could Quinnerly possibly do any worse than his teammates on the court? Once it became apparent that the most Nova was going to get from this game was learning experience, the guys that needed to learn should have been in. Gillespie, Booth, and Paschall had no busniess logging 32+ minutes each the way they were playing.
Offensive Rebounding Percentage (OR%) - Villanova wins by 1.3%
Offense: Game - 29.4%, Season - 42.2%, Last Year - 29.6%
One of the most shocking stats to come out of this game is that the teams actually tied on the boards, with Nova having the slight edge in offensive rebounds. That’s phenomenal considering the amount of missed shots the Wildcats put up. Sure, their 10 offensive boards only resulted in 5 points, but the fact that they were still able to attack the glass is a positive we should cling onto for dear life.
Eric Paschall, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, and Saddiq Bey were each credited with a pair of offensive boards to lead the team. The length that trio can provide down low should create plenty of second chance points on offense and act as somewhat of a safety net on nights when shots aren’t falling. Obviously, like last night, there are exceptions. But given how good Michigan’s been on the defensive glass, this was still a good showing by the Wildcats.
Defense: Game - 28.1%, Season - 26.1%, Last Year - 27.1%
As a team Villanova stayed fairly consistent with their defensive rebounding on the season. But individually, no one had more than 4 rebounds. Then again, it’s hard to pull in a large number of boards when your opponent is making their shots.
Sure, the ‘Cats could have shown more effort on the boards, but that’s true for everything about this game. Given that rebounding will likely be one of the strengths of this team, I’m fine with just moving on.
Free Throw Rate (FTRate) - Villanova wins by 13.2%
Offense: Game - 47.7%, Season - 35.8%, Last Year - 29.4%
While it’s true that Villanova got to the line more than Michigan and at a better rate, that’s very misleading from what actually happened. The Wolverines did such a good job driving the Wildcats off the arc that Villanova was content to take on the defense with dribble penetration. While that did result in 21 trips to the line, it also resulted in 21 turnovers. I’d say Michigan got the better end of that deal.
Villanova needs to earn their way to the charity stripe by finishing through contact at the rim, not fighting through defenders ten feet from the basket. As I’ve said before, it’s ok if this team isn’t getting chances from the line as long as they get good looks behind the arc. That’s just how their offense if designed. But when those shots aren’t available, the team needs to do a much better job of penetration.
Collectively the Wildcats shot OK at the line. They were 71.4% as a team, but only Cole Swider missed more than one attempt, going 1 for 3. Phil Booth stayed perfect on the season, now 11 for 11, while Eric Paschall led the team with a 4 for 4 performance to put his average at 85.7% for the season.
Defense: Game - 34.5%, Season - 24.7%, Last Year - 26.7%
There weren’t any attempts to extend the game in this one, but Villanova still sent their opponents to the line more than we’re used to seeing. A lot of that had to do with defensive issues at the point guard position. Both Gillespie and Quinerly racked up three fouls a piece trying to stay in front of their men. Saddiq Bey and Jermaine Samuels also had three fouls a piece, but theirs came on mistakes with the help defense or being overly aggressive.
No matter how you slice it, mistakes were leading to fouls all night. While no one got into foul trouble per say, the defensive miscues were doing just as much damage. The defense is Nova’s greatest weakness, and probably will be all season.
Looking Ahead: Furman Paladins (Villanova is 94% favorites, 83-66)
Offensive Projections: eFG% - Nova, TO% - Furm, OR% - Nova, FTRate - Nova
Furman is a higher caliber team than the mid-majors Nova faced earlier this season, ranking 147th in KenPom. However, Villanova should still have a significant advantage in talent and athleticism. Furman ranks outside the Top 200 in defending the paint this season, and they’ve been even worse at forcing turnovers. That said, defense is the strength of this Furman team that already upset one of last year’s Final Four teams.
Defensive Projections: eFG% - Nova, TO% - Furm, OR% - Nova, FTRate - Nova
Despite their recent showing, Villanova’s man to man defense should be much more effective against the Paladins. Two of their leading scorers are forwards, and their best guard is just 5’11”. I’d expect this to be a bounce back performance for a team that prides itself on defense and rebounding.