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The Sun’s Arizin: Villanova Basketball Has Become A Closing Culture

Villanova’s ability to close has gone from a glaring weakness to a reason to believe they can win it all.

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Happy Wednesday Nova Nation! All season long we’ve been tracking the Wildcats ability to close out games. Breaking their performance down by ten minute quarters, it was clear that the wildcats had trouble defending a late lead. But what was once a weakness for Villanova has become a strength. It’s not that Villanova no longer loses in the fourth quarter, but it’s the way they’re playing the entire game now that has changed their ability to close.

Let’s start by looking at the raw stats we’ve been tracking all year. Here you’ll find all 37 games Villanova has played this season, broken down into scoring margin by quarter and sorted by 4th quarter performance. Post season games, including the Big East Tournament and NCAA Tournament, are highlighted in blue.

There are some really good takeaways here, especially when focusing on the post-season games. Villanova has lost the 4th quarter in less than half of those games, and never by more than two possessions. Obviously, all of the post season games have also resulted in wins. But the stat that I think stands out the most comes when you look at how Villanova has performed in every quarter so far this post-season.

Villanova’s toughness has defined this post season run, and the stats are backing it up. During the season the team became susceptible to runs by their opponent, which could lead to some situations they couldn’t recover from. However in the post-season, Nova has shown an amazing resilience to absorb their opponents best shot and come back swinging. When an opponent has gone on a scoring run, Villanova is right there to match them. If Villanova hits a shooting slump, they step it up on defense to ensure their opponent can’t take advantage.

That’s been especially true against elite teams in the 4th quarter. On the season Villanova got outscored by 7+ points in the 4th quarter by Top 50 KenPom opponents over 25% of the time. But in this post season run, not only has it not happened in the 4th quarter, it hasn’t happened in any quarter by any level of opponent. They haven’t lost consecutive quarters in a game since the first half of their first game in the Big East Tournament. And they haven’t failed to close out a single game in the post season.

Yes, there is still room for improvement. Villanova has only won the 4th quarter in two of their seven post season games. But that’s been more reflective of their ability to ice out games they’re leading late and put a strangle hold on the competition. There’s no rule that says you have to blow the other team out at the end of a game, you just have to win. And winning is exactly what has gotten Villanova back to the Final Four.

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