Much has been made about your Villanova Wildcats’ latest loss, which is (partly) being magnified by the fact that it completed a season sweep for the Butler Bulldogs over the Champions-elect of the Big East.
It’s only natural for fans to search for the ‘why’ after a loss, particularly one that felt so familiar. Is this a trend, signaling March failure? Or jump a bump in the road to glory?
Instead of just focusing on Wednesday night’s loss, I took a look at all three of Villanova’s losses this season. Here’s what I see:
Poor (3-point) shooting is really tough to overcome
Villanova is one of the best offensive teams in the country, and they’re actually shooting the ball better than last year’s National Championship team by a little more than 1% both from the field and from behind the arc. So feel good!
But they do take a lot of shots from behind the arc - by design, mind you. Most nights, they’ll hit 35-45% of these and it’ll look great. When it doesn’t, it looks like a static jack-em-up offense that people scream about.
(For the most part) Villanova is still taking good (and open) shots, and the reality is that off-shooting nights happen to everyone. Some nights they just don’t go down.
- Butler (1): 6-26 3FG, 43% eFG
- Marquette: 6-34 3FG, 45% eFG
- Butler (2): 6-24 3FG, 49% eFG
Against good teams, you’re just not going to win when that happens.
Bad timing, or poor late-game execution?
Having watched all three of these games, I’d argue a little bit of both but I’d lean more towards the former. Call it glass-half-full if you want but I’ve watched a lot of these players close out plenty of games over their career. I don’t think it’s a sign of a larger problem that will hurt them in March (i.e. tired legs, a theory that Will debunked this morning).
Instead, I think it’s just one team getting hot and one team getting cold with not a lot of time left. You can survive those runs early and in the middle of the game. It’s almost impossible to come out on the right side when it happens in the final minutes.
Take a look at these win probabilities from KenPom (in order of the games being played)!
I’ll caveat that having watched all three games, Villanova was just out-executed in the final minutes at Butler. Hats off to them. It hasn’t happened to Jay Wright’s recent teams all that often.
In the other two though? Both Butler and Marquette scorched the Earch with their 3-point shooting down the stretch. Couple that with Villanova’s inability to buy a bucket, and you get a chart that looks like that.
So I’m leaning on the ‘bad timing/luck’ angle, because we’ve seen Villanova go through cold stretches this season and still win games comfortably. Come at me.
This isn’t to say that Villanova is bulletproof come March — and the big issue for me is being able to survive a poor night from downtown. They have an elite ability to get to the rim and draw fouls and (normally) hit their free throws, but that is in part set up for by their threat to shoot.
So March is going to be fun, because Villanova is a really good team. But as anyone will tell you, you need to have everything go right for you to win it all.