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New look Villanova Basketball is bigger, but still plays the same way

The Wildcats are bigger, longer, and more athletic this season, but they’re still playing the same winning basketball.

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Happy Tuesday Nova Nation! The new AP Poll came out yesterday, and after soundly defeating Army the Villanova Wildcats held their ground as a Top Ten team. But because we live in 2019, everyone has to have their own poll too, and the World Wide Leader is no different. In ESPN’s Power Rankings, the ‘Cats also sit at #10. But what caught my eye wasn’t the ranking, but the assessment of how Villanova is approaching this season.

Per the article, “There’s a clear shift in Villanova’s lineup this season, as Jay Wright is leaning more heavily on his frontcourt -- a departure from the Wildcats’ perimeter-based attacks of the past several seasons.” That line struck me because I find it simultaneously accurate and misleading. Yes, this Villanova team is longer across the board and certainly deeper in the front court. The 2020 Wildcats aren’t going to shoot as well from deep as the record setting 2018 either, so yes, more of the offense should come from the bigs up front. But while all of that is accurate, I think this Villanova team is taking taking the exact same approach as they have during their recent run of success.

As has been said many times over, Villanova’s offense and defense are difficult for many players to fully pick up in just one season. That’s because while the Wildcats may have a playbook, it’s far more based on philosophies and concepts than pure X’s and O’s. In other words, Villanova isn’t just trying to run a set play but rather equip their players with an understanding of their best options depending on what the defense (or offense) presents them.

And that’s why the above assessment is both true and misleading. Yes, Villanova’s personnel has a different look and feel to it. But at the same time, they’re still approaching things the same way and it’s the opposition that’s reacting differently. For example, in 2016 Villanova often tried to get the ball down inside to Daniel Ochefu and let him make decisions with it. While Ochefu was a skilled big man to be sure, he wasn’t an unstoppable offensive force in the paint. If he could take his man one on one, he would. But if he drew help defense, he was a skilled passer that could find open shooters or athletic cutters for easy baskets. Fast forward to Villanova’s newest interior threat, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. Earl is already a more accomplished finisher on the interior, and while he does have above average passing ability it’s not quite yet at Ochefu levels. That means we’re seeing a lot more offense finishing on the interior this year than we did during the first championship run. Yes it’s a different result, but it’s still the same set of concepts that Villanova’s been running for years.

Another example is 2018, where Nova used elite dribble penetration and perimeter passing to create wide open threes. Let’s not kid ourselves, this team doesn’t have a 2018 Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, or Donte DiVincenzo on it. But it does have guys who can create their own shots and force defenses to react. Saddiq Bey, Jermaine Samuels, and Justin Moore have all shown they can go get a bucket when the team needs them to, similar to the 2018 trio. But while in 2018 many of their offense options off penetration were to kick out for open threes, this year’s team has additional opportunities for interior dump offs or cutters. This team’s strength may not be as much in whipping the ball around the perimeter as much as it could be moving the ball through the lane. Again, it’s the same approach and philosophies yielding a different result due to the current players and how the opposing defense chooses to play them.

It’s hard to go off numbers to argue this point because there’s such a small sample size, but let’s say for arguments sake that Villanova’s opponents the last two season openers (Morgan State in 2018, Army in 2019) are similar opponents. Last year, Villanova took 55% of their shots from beyond the arc with an effective field goal percentage (eFG%) of 59.7%. This season, Villanova took 10% fewer of their shots from beyond the arc in their opener (43.5%) and yet still managed a slightly better eFG% of 60.9%. The bottom line, Villanova may look different and they may be taking fewer threes. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t the same offense that’s been dominating the Big East for more than half a decade.

In other “news”, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is named Big East Freshman of the Week, DePaul strikes the first blow in the Gavitt Games to put the Big East up 1-0, and former childhood friends turned NBA stars Eric Paschall and Donovan Mitchell tell their story. Enjoy!

Villanova Men’s Basketball

Villanova forward Saddiq Bey could be destined for a breakout year | Philly Sports Network
Saddiq Bey is primed for a breakout sophomore season and NBA scouts are watching.

Ranking the Best In-Season Men's College Basketball Tournaments in 2019-20 | Bleacher Report
College basketball's Champions Classic is in the rear-view mirror, and conference play doesn't really get rolling until about two months from now, but there are a whole bunch of Maui Invitational and Battle 4 Atlantis types of tournaments coming up to help bridge that gap. The Myrtle Beach Invitational comes in at #5.

Robinson-Earl Tabbed BIG EAST Freshman of the Week | Villanova University Athletics
Robinson-Earl scored 24 points and added 13 rebounds against Army.

Villanova vs Ohio State

BuckeyeXtra Basketball podcast - Getting ready for Villanova | Buckeyextra
Columbus Dispatch Ohio State men’s basketball beat reporter Adam Jardy evaluates where the team sits after the first two victories of the season, talks about Andre Wesson’s recent injury, and recaps what happened in the latest 76-56 victory over UMass Lowell. Finally, we preview the upcoming game against the Villanova Wildcats.

Week One 2019-’20 Big Ten Power Rankings - New Leader | BT Powerhouse
Check out BTP's latest Big Ten power rankings. Ohio State ranks #1

3-point play: Ohio State playing elite-level defense | Toledo Blade
COLUMBUS — The Buckeyes breezed past UMass Lowell on Sunday afternoon, 76-56, setting up a showdown with No. 10 Villanova on Wednesday at Value City Arena. ...

College basketball games of the week: James Wiseman, Memphis vs. Oregon | Fansided
The Gavitt Tipoff Games, featuring Big East-Big Ten showdowns, highlight the must-watch college basketball action on the Week 2 schedule.

No. 16 Ohio St. hungry for early test vs. No. 10 Villanova | Yahoo! Sports
Ohio State has looked good in winning its first two games, but that may not be good enough when the No. 16 Buckeyes host tenth-ranked Villanova on Wednesday in Columbus. Despite home victories of 64-56 over Cincinnati and 76-56 against the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann

Big East

How To Watch: Big East Basketball Week 2 | Anonymous Eagle
It’s Gavitt Games Week! Lots of excellent Big East contests going on here.

Previewing the 2019 Gavitt Tipoff Games | Last Word on Pro Basketball
The annual Gavitt Tipoff Games are set to commence this week and with it always brings an exciting slate of contests as Big East and Big Ten teams clash.

DePaul hammers Iowa 93-78 to improve to 4-0 | Chicago Tribune
DePaul got off to a blistering start, hitting 8-of-14 3-pointers in the first half and its lead quickly stretched from 16 to 22 points. Markese Jacobs then buried a wide-open 3 to make it 40-16.

NBA Wildcats

‘Two Westchester kids’: Eric Paschall, Donovan Mitchell face each other in NBA |
Less than two years removed from watching Donovan Mitchell finish second in Rookie of the Year voting to Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, Eric Paschall, 23, is emerging as a dark-horse candidate for All-Rookie first team.

From Dobbs Ferry to the NBA: Eric Paschall and Donovan Mitchell are ready for the moment | Mercury News
On Monday, the Warriors will host the Utah Jazz, pinning best friends Eric Paschall and Donovan Mitchell against each other. “That’s my man,” Paschall said. “But I definitely want to beat him.”

Jazz news: Donovan Mitchell speaks on playing close friend Eric Paschall for the first time since high school | Clutch Points
The Utah Jazz's Donovan Mitchell will face childhood friend Eric Paschall of the Golden State Warriors for the first time in their NBA careers.

Former Villanova Players

Jahvon Quinerly to redshirt season after NCAA denies waiver | The Crimson White
Alabama basketball transfer guard Jahvon Quinerly’s appeal of the denial of his immediate eligibility waiver has been denied, according to a release from Alabama Athletics on Monday.

Villanova Football

WILEY AND AWOPETU HONORED BY THE CAA | Villanova University Athletics
RICHMOND, VA. -- Two Wildcats were honored by the CAA for their play in last week’s 35-28 win over Richmond. Senior linebacker Drew Wiley was named the CAA Defensive

Pat Does That: Does Pat Gallen Have What It Takes To Be A Punter Or Punt Returner? | CBS Philly
It’s an art few people are able to master -- the art of punting a football.

Villanova Athletics

Shane Bradley Named Second Team All-BIG EAST | Villanova University Athletics
Shane Bradley among BIG EAST Postseason Honorees

Women's Lacrosse Releases 2020 Schedule | Villanova University Athletics
Head coach Julie Young has announced the schedule for the 2020 season.

College Basketball

College basketball just started. Here's what there Is to know so far |
The opening week of college basketball featured some incredible individual performances, several tremendous team wins, and also a number of off-the-court issues.

College Basketball Rankings: Kentucky is No. 1 in Top 25 And 1, Florida drops out of top 10 after loss to FSU |
Florida dropped to No. 19 after Sunday's loss to Florida State

College basketball Power Rankings: Get used to Kentucky at No. 1 | ESPN
A strong Champions Classic showing and zero tough tests until late December keep Kentucky on top.

Cassius Winston stars in Michigan State's win a day after death of brother | ESPN
Cassius Winston started for top-ranked Michigan State on Sunday, a day after his younger brother Zachary Winston died when he was struck by a train.