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The Sun’s Arizin: Oh What A Night for Villanova Basketball

Last night was a great night to be a fan of the Wildcats

Villanova Mug Arizin Links

Happy Thursday Nova Nation! Man, what a difference home vs road arenas can make! Last night the Wildcats really came to play, and showed that they’ve learned a lot since their two game skid in mid December. There were so many positives to take away from this game that it’s hard to list them all, but we’re gonna try!

Big Night For Jay Wright

Jay Wright recorded his 500th win at Villanova last night, by far the most in school history. But even more impressive is that Jay is unquestionably the most successful coach Villanova has ever had. He leads in total games, total wins, win percentage, regular season titles, conference tournament titles, ncaa appearances, final fours, and national championships. Oh, and he still isn’t the longest tenured coach in Nova’s history. At 21 years on the job, he’s only been there two years longer than Coach Massimino was, and he’s stilll got four years to go to catch Coach Severence. Jay’s had an amazing career on the mainline, and it’s not even close to being over yet!

Oh, and for those wondering, Jay currently ranks 37th All-Time in the Career Wins for D1 Men’s College Basketball with 622. Next to pass on the list are Hugh Durham and Norm Stewart who are tied for 35th at 634. The next active coach Jay is chasing is Tubby Smith, currently at 34th with 637 wins.

Threes? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Threes!

The Wildcats finally broke the 30% from deep barrier last night, collectively shooting 8 for 23 (34.8%). This was still below their season average, but it’s a step in the right direction! What’s been more impactful is that for a fourth straight game Villanova’s shot distribution has stayed at 40% or less from beyond the arc. Prior to this run (which not so coincidently is all of Big East play) Villanova has taken less than 40% of their shots from deep just twice in ten games.

It’s not that the Wildcats aren’t looking for threes, they absolutely are. It’s a big part of their gameplan and likely will be for a long time. What they’ve done is made a more concentrated effort to attack the rim early, and then attack the rim again. If they get open looks on kickouts they’re always (remembers Samuels hesitation) usually going to take them. But this renewed effort to attack the rim is certainly helping.

The other part of this is that attacking the rim is what Big East opponents WANT Villanova to do. The Wildcats are still one of the best shooting teams in the conference, and Big East coaches have seen the kind of quick point explosions Villanova is capable of if you leave them open to fire away. Part of the reason Nova is taking fewer threes is that Big East coaches are purposefully playing tight at the perimeter to run Nova off the three. They’d rather take their chances with athletic guards and rim protectors defending the paint than give the Wildcats open shots, and I can’t blame them. Villanova is smart enough to take what the defense gives them, and as we’re seeing they’re getting better at finishing in the lane when the opportunity presents itself. In Non-Conference play, the Wildcats shot 47% from inside the arc. In their four Big East games, they’re shooting 51% from two.

Everybody Plays!

Who doesn’t love a night when everyone (sorry Caleb, get better soon) gets onto the floor! Villanova played ten players last night, eight of which got at least 17 minutes. Brace yourself for this next bit, Jordan Longino and Bryan Antoine got 20 and 26 minutes respectively! Even better, only Justin Moore played more than 30 minutes last night on his way to a much deserved Kenpom.com MVP of the game. Shout out to Jermaine Samuels as well with a second big scoring night, putting up 18 points on 6 of 10 shots from inside the arc and 6 of 7 from the line. Six different Wildcats had Offensive Ratings of 100+, and Bryan Antoine was right there with a rating of 95 as well.

Now it’s unlikely we see this type of minute distribution often unless Nova keeps winning by 30+ with Gillespie in early foul trouble. That said, the extended minutes for Antoine and Longino is how the team’s been trending which is great to see. Best way to sum it up and quote of the night goes to our own Catherine Ryan: “I want to take this minutes allotment out to a nice seafood dinner.”

First Place, Baby!

The fact that Villanova capturing a share of first place in the conference comes 4th on this list shows just how good a night it was. The Wildcats are now in a three way tie with Providence and Creighton for the league’s best record, and as of now that’s what matters. There is still that pesky COVID thing looming out there, and if we get to a point where games can’t be rescheduled then Winning % will become the new measuring stick for league champion. Right now, that would go to St. John’s whose won their only game in conference play after a long COVID pause. That said, the season is young, there are plenty of games that will be played yet, and Nova is positioned well for another run at another championship.

The Computers Love Us

The guys over on the Full 40 Podcast were calling for this on Twitter last night, but I don’t think even they were expecting the kind of bump Villanova got in the analytics community last night. For example, last night’s win jumped Nova from 13th overall to 6th on KenPom, jumping the likes of Duke, Arizona, Auburn, Kentucky, UCLA, LSU and Illinois. Villanova’s offensive efficiency rating jumped to 9th overall (up from 13th), and their defensive efficiency rating jumped to 18th (up from 28th). That means as of Thursday morning, only Baylor, Gonzaga, Houston, Villanova, Arizona, Kentucky, and UCLA can claim to be ranked Top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. For those curious, Baylor is the only team ranked Top 10 in both.

Yes, it’s a great day to be a Wildcat. However, the team needs to stay focused on the next game. DePaul is on Saturday and don’t be fooled by the box score, they had St. John’s down to a 3 point game with just seconds remaining. It’s an away game, and more than just a win is on the line. Villanova’s 20 game, 13 year win streak over the Blue Demons will be on the line. But more on that tomorrow.

In other news...

Villanova Defeats Creighton

Justin Moore and Jermaine Samuels led the way in Villanova's 75-41 win over Creighton | The Inquirer
Villanova avenged its 20-point loss at Creighton three weeks ago with a 75-41 home win

Moore Helps Lead Wildcats Past Creighton 75-41 | Villanova University
The win was the 500th of Jay Wright's Villanova coaching tenure

Moore, Samuels lead No. 19 Villanova to rout of Creighton | AP News
VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) — Villanova wasn’t going to get “out-toughed” this time. Justin Moore scored 22 points and Jermaine Samuels added 18 to lead the 19th-ranked Wildcats to a 75-41 blowout of Creighton on Wednesday night.

Villanova Men’s Basketball

Jay Bilas updates his 1-68 men's college basketball rankings for 2021-22 | ESPN
The Bilas Index is back as the calendar flips to 2022. As always, you're welcome. Jay ranks the Wildcats at #10.

After 2 1/2 years of injuries and frustration, former McDonald’s All-American Bryan Antoine is finally settling in for No. 19 Villanova | nj.com
Former Ranney School star Bryan Antoine has had to overcome shoulder surgery and a knee injury in his 2 1/2 years at Villanova, and is only now playing on a regular basis.

Big East

Men's basketball: DePaul unable to close out game against St. John's, falls to 0-3 in Big East | The DePaulia
DePaul needed to win on Wednesday. A loss to a St. John’s team coming off a near three-week Covid pause would have been damaging to DePaul’s record and the momentum that it had built up during non-conference play. The Blue Demons had a chance to win in the close minutes of the game, but St....

Vax and mask required to watch Xavier | Banners On The Parkway
It’s one step forward, two steps back as Covid once again strengthens its hold on the season.

NBA Wildcats

Knicks' Ryan Arcidiacono: Deal with New York coming Thursday | CBSSports.com
Knicks' Ryan Arcidiacono: Deal with New York coming Thursday

Bucks' Donte DiVincenzo: Ankle sprain progressing well | CBSSports.com
Bucks' Donte DiVincenzo: Ankle sprain progressing well

Heat news: Kyle Lowry just had the worst ejection of the year vs. Blazers | Clutch Points
Miami Heat superstar Kyle Lowry was ejected from Wednesday's game vs the Portland Trailblazers for tossing the ball at a referee.

Detroit Pistons: Saddiq Bey is on a career-best hot streak | Detroit Jock City
Saddiq Bey has been having a fine stretch of games for the Detroit Pistons, the best in his young career. How long can it continue?

College Basketball

The best moments of the 2021-22 men's college basketball season so far | ESPN
For those who missed the nonconference action of the 2021-22 men's college basketball season, here are the top highlights.