I sat down last night with a cocktail and ended what had been a particularly taxing afternoon at my day job. Days like this are becoming more regular, and frankly the thought of playing hooky from work for a couple of hours on Friday to watch Villanova made me smile. The thought of them flaming out again in March made me sick.
Bad luck, bad matchups, or whatever you want to use as an excuse has made it seem like ages since Villanova has gotten the job done in March. I thought back to 2009 and what made that team successful (more on that below). I also thought about what my fandom was like during that run. It was my senior year, so to put it bluntly it was balls to the wall, and it was an awesome feeling.
And that's why I've decided I'm going all-in on Villanova this year. And I think you should do the same. It's a little bit irrational to do that that when our heads are telling us we're only going to get hurt, but I've been rational the last couple of years. The popular opinion would have you believe Villanova isn't a contender. I'm here to tell you that they are.
You don't need to shoot 3s well to win a basketball game
You just need to score more points than the other team. You can be an hyper-efficient offense like Kentucky and win. You can also be an elite defensive unit like Virginia and win. Having a mix - as Villanova does - is a good thing, as history tells us. The media has made a big deal about Villanova shooting a lot of three's and not shooting them well. They're right in that regard. Using it as a basis for why the 'Cats can't win in March is just dumb.
Take into account that the 2009 team shot just under 1% better from downtown over the course of the season than the current team. Add in the fact that they shot well below their season average during their Final Four run. You know what they did really well? Score efficiently and beat the crap out of teams on defense.
That's exactly what this group does. The #narrative would have you believe Villanova's offense stinks this year. They're a full 5 points better in adjusted O than their 2009 brethren. They're 3 points worse than the 2009 squad on defense, but given the changes in rules, I'd say they're probably pretty close in overall ability. And better yet, they're ranked much higher than that 2009 group in both categories relative to their opponents. Which leads me to my next point
The field is wide open this year
Seriously. There are no great teams. You can pick apart anybody and find a weakness. Even Kansas, the consensus 'best' team has thrown together a few clunkers this year. How soon we forget a 19-point beatdown at the hands of 12-20 Oklahoma State!
All it's going to take is stringing together several strong performances in a row for any team. Go out on the court and play below-average, and you're going home. And in fairness to the media, they've noticed this. I haven't heard anybody say that a certain team is going to roll to the Final Four.
So just play to your strengths, play hard, and execute. Here's what happens when Villanova puts it all together. When they're at the top of their game, nobody is beating them. They're not always there though, and it becomes about matchups.
Villanova has a really good draw
Forget about not playing in the East. It's over. And frankly, I think Villanova might be better off given the strength of that region. Every year when I look at the bracket, I really only focus on a couple of factors in the team's region. Upsets happen everywhere as we all know too well, so I only look at what who the top-4 seeds in the region are, and what the first weekend looks like.
The Wildcats got a weak mid-major (UNC-Asheville), a team they've already beaten by 16 on the road (Temple) and 2010 Villanova (Iowa) -- a talented group that can't put a foot right late in the year. That's excellent. Waiting for them in the Sweet 16? Maybe Miami (FL) who could be tricky given their plethora of athletic guards. Or maybe it's Wichita State or Arizona. Or maybe some Cinderella. Don't stress yourself out and plan that far ahead.
I have no idea if Villanova is going to break our hearts again any more than I know they're going to break off a Final 4 run. What I do know is that this team is good on offense and good on defense. I know that the field is weaker than in years past. And I know that the Wildcats have a good draw. Remove the stigma around Villanova's March failures and you'll see what I see. A contender.
So go ahead, rip the band-aid off and get on the bandwagon with me. The view is much better up here.