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The Sun’s Arizin: The ‘Cats and Closing Time

Updating our look into how the Wildcats close out games

Villanova Mug Arizin Links

Happy Wednesday Nova Nation! A win is a win, is a win, is a win. Lots of great things to take away from last night. Collin Gillespie will do anything and everything he can to win a game. Eric Dixon has established himself as one of the dominant big men in the Big East. And overall, despite many ups and towns, this team appears to be getting better.

Well, in most areas. There’s still that pesky thing where they have to play the final 10 minutes of a game. As we saw last night, that can get tricky. A little while back I did a deep dive into Villanova’s performance in late game scenarios, and I figure it’s time to give an update on where they’ve progressed to.

As a quick reminder, when I did the first analysis I pointed out that’s it’s tough to judge Villanova’s late game performance by just going off the peak of their final lead, so we’re looking at the last 10 minutes of every game. For example, last night’s final 10 minutes only saw the ‘Cats lose by 4, so this wasn’t as major a collapse as it looked like. The criteria for a “True Failed to Close” game were as follows:

  • Must have been winning entering the final 10 minutes
  • Must lose final 10 minutes by 7 or more points
  • Final result must be a loss, single digit win, or any OT result

For more details behind the logic on those, check out the previous article. So this wasn’t a “True Collapse”, but it still was a lost 4th quarter. It’s something Nova has done a lot of this season. Not only has Villanova lost the last 10 minutes for four consecutive games now, but they’ve lost the final 10 minutes in nearly HALF of their games this season (11 of 24). Here’s the updated full breakdown sorted by 4th quarter performance.

A few of the glaring takeaways here:

  • All of Villanova’s losses come in games when they lose the 4th quarter.
  • Villanova is losing the 4th quarter in 50% of their games against the Big East.
  • Villanova is losing the 4th quarter in 80% of their games against Top 50 KenPom teams.
  • 50% of their 4th quarters against Top 50 KenPom teams are 7+ point losses

There are a couple of negative takes out there on Nova that I can play devil’s advocate against. The rotation, the inconsistent play of certain players, I feel that there’s a logic or explanation for most of those. But on closing out games, I have nothing. Nothing is trending in the right direction. Villanova is flat out no where close to as good in the final 10 minutes as they are the rest of the game. Just to drive this home, here’s their plus/minus breakdowns for the season:

Villanova’s +/- Splits for 2021-2022 by Quarter

 +/- Breakdown 1st Qtr 2nd Qtr 3rd Qtr 4th Qtr
 +/- Breakdown 1st Qtr 2nd Qtr 3rd Qtr 4th Qtr
Season 61 75 116 34
Last 10 Games 30 18 62 9
Home 38 65 67 48
Away 23 -9 34 -6
Neutral 0 19 15 -8
Non-Con 29 59 32 14
Big East 32 16 84 20
Top 50 KenPom -11 23 42 -42

There’s still time to work on this. Teams continue to improve all the way up to the tournament, and this is where Villanova needs to get everyone healthy and find a strategy for handling pressure in late game situations. But time is running out, and unless they find a solution then you’re looking at the biggest reason this team could be looking at an early exit in March.

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