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The Sun’s Arizin: Villanova Basketball Set For Tempo Battle With St. John’s

The Red Storm want to run, but the Wildcats want to slow things down. Who will control the tempo?


Happy Friday Nova Nation! Your Villanova Wildcats will play host to the St. John’s Red Storm this weekend in what might be the greatest contrast in styles college basketball has seen yet this year. These Big East Rivals play at completely different ends of the spectrum when it comes to pace and tempo.

St. John’s play’s ridiculously fast. Not only is their Adjusted Tempo ranked 4th in the country per KenPom, they also average the 3rd fastest possession length on offense at 14.6 seconds. The Johnnies are all about attacking on both sides of the ball, ranking 15th in Steal% and 16th in Turnover% on defense. They have one game this season with fewer than 71 possessions, and they’ll be looking to turn Saturday’s matchup with Nova into a sprint.

Meanwhile, Villanova ranks 356th in Adjusted Tempo, the 3rd slowest team in the country. Their average possession length on offense is also in the bottom 10 nationally at a full 20 seconds. They also are one of the best teams in the country at not turning the ball over (11th in Turnover%) and preventing teams from stealing (5th in Steal %). So when we say we’re really going to have a clash of styles, we mean it.

It got me wondering how Villanova has fared this year in controlling tempo. The Wildcats currently have an Adj. Tempo of 60.6, so I charted that against their opponents Adj. Tempos and how many possessions actually occurred in all 20 games this season:

Over the whole year, Villanova is doing slightly better than their opponents at controlling tempo. The Wildcats have kept the game closer to their tempo than their opponents in 12 of 20 games this season (60%), moving the needle off of the average by about 2 possessions per game.

But lately Villanova has started really getting good at slowing the game and keeping opponents playing at their pace. Villanova has won the tempo battle in their last seven consecutive games, and are forcing teams off the average tempo by about 7 fewer possessions per game during that stretch. To put that into perspective, the difference between the fastestest paced and slowest paced teams in the country is only about 16 possessions. So being able to swing that spectrum by nearly half is a HUGE deal, and really shows how good the Wildcats have gotten at controlling the pace of play.

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