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Shot Charting Villanova Basketball’s 2017-18 Season

What Jalen Brunson is doing is absurd.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Butler Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

With a nice break in between games - Villanova won’t play Marquette until Saturday - I’ll be moving forward with a few articles on their season-to-date, largely focusing on the typical stat data I gather. First up - a focus on shot charting Villanova’s season - on defense, offense, and from a player standpoint. We’ll focus on a few trends and notes to add spice among the graphics, but the charts and tables will largely speak for themselves. The data below is based on the shot location information I’ve been able to gather from the web - so far this year, full location data has been available for 42% of all games played. The percentage of games available is far higher for ranked teams and those in the Power 6 conferences - Villanova has not been missing a game this season, for example. These available shots are what the ‘averages’ are based on, in the tables’ far-right columns.

The zones are generally self-explanatory, but I’ll run through some of those less clear. ‘Rim’ shots are within 5 feet of the rim, the ‘short’ mid-range is outside the rim area and closer than 13 feet, and the ‘long’ mid-range are all non-3s from outside 13 feet. And while NBA 3s technically start from 23.75 feet from the rim, I used 25 feet as the cutoff for this particular analysis.

Without further ado - have really gotten lazy on my introductions lately - let’s get into the defense thus far.

Defensive Shot Chart

Villanova Defensive shot chart

From a strictly shooting perspective, Villanova’s defense has been pedestrian this year. By KenPom’s numbers, they’re holding the opposition to a 49.6 eFG% so far this year, which places them squarely in the middle of the pack (129th in the country, as of January 1st). That’s reflected in the data I have for their shooting defense this season.

You can see the D-I averages (again, reflected in the far-right column of the table below the chart) relative to Villanova’s allowed field goal percentages. While ‘Nova holds teams below the D-I average at the rim (60 to 61 percent is average), they’re far from exceptional. The best teams in D-I are closer to 40-45% - Michigan State is currently lapping the field at 38.9%.

They’re below average from both mid-range zones, which is something we’ve discussed on here before - Villanova is more than willing to permit clean looks from the mid-range at the expense of protecting the rim and 3-point range. And teams are just slightly above-average from each zone - not exactly a problem area to this point.

They haven’t been perfect defending from 3, however. Credit for 3-point defense is traditionally tough to pin down - there are some solid indicators that an opponent’s field goal percentage from 3 is more related to luck than anything the defense does. But after the barrage from Butler on Saturday, Villanova’s defensive 3FG% is close to 34%, which would be 3 points higher than last year’s outstanding 31.1% mark. Tightening up rotations and contests from the mess we saw on Saturday should help some - giving up wide-open looks isn’t entirely down to bad luck.

It’s unlikely - to me, at least - that Villanova is going to look outstanding from a ‘shooting’ perspective on defense this year. They don’t have a traditional rim protector, and competition is about to get stiffer with a shorter rotation - there’s not much to indicate their defense at the rim will get better. And opponents have traditionally shot better than average from the mid-range against Villanova.

But they don’t need it to be their strength to be an elite defense. They remain one of the best in the country at keeping their opponents off the free throw line - their FTR of 23.0 (ratio of free throw attempts to field goal attempts) is top-10 in the country. And they’re still generating turnovers at a 20%+ rate, which has been good for a top-100 defensive rate in the country for most of the KenPom era. Even slight improvements from 3 and near the rim, combined with consistency elsewhere, can vault the defense back into the top-10 range. We’ll see where it goes.

And the Offense

Villanova’s Offensive shot chart

And here’s all of Villanova’s offensive shots so far this year. They’ve been particularly outstanding on offense from the field this year - their 60.1 eFG% mark is currently 4th in the country, and their marks from 3 and 2-point range both hit the top-15. Simply, there’s no level this offense can’t score from. Even the mid-range is back in style, though their attempts from there are still in the bottom-50 of the country. The team is currently hitting around 44% from the mid-range areas in general - worse in eFG% than 3s and the rim, of course, but still very far above-average.

One cool note - Villanova is #3 in the country (by my stats - again, not all games are available) in ‘deep’ 3s - or 3s taken 25 feet or more from the rim. Their 171 attempts are below just Mississippi State and Oregon - but they’re hitting 41.52% of those attempts. While it’s on a mere 171 attempts, I’m here for the hyperbole on this one - Villanova’s current FG% from beyond 25 feet (for the record, the NBA line is 23.75 feet from the rim above the break, and 22 feet in the corners) would rank as the best in the NBA. Spacing for the win.

Let’s break down who’s been individually responsible for the superlative shooting performance.

Jalen Brunson’s shot chart

Leading the charge is Jalen Brunson, putting together another outstanding season as a junior. He’s continued to develop despite being one of the country’s best point guards LAST year. He’s hit nearly 60% of his above-the-break 3s, and is hitting close to the same on his mid-rangers so far this year. And I haven’t even mentioned that his 78% mark at the rim is the best on the team (besides Paschall and DCR). He’s been a true three level scorer, and has been (literally) the 2nd-most efficient player in the entire country (142.4 individual offensive efficiency rating) on 24% usage.

Even more impressive about his shooting - just 27 of his 97 made baskets on the year have been assisted. His degree of difficulty is higher than it’s ever been, and he’s having the best season of his career.

Mikal Bridges’s shot chart

Mikal’s also been having an outstanding season on the offensive end. He’s hitting well above 40% of his 3s from each of the zones, and has kept up his outstanding efficiency near the rim - though, of course, much of it is fueled by his excellence in transition. He’s branched out a bit to the mid-range - his 27 shots from two-point jumper range so far this year match his total from last year - but he hasn’t been particularly good from there just yet, either.

We don’t need him to be, though. His diversity as a 3-point shooter is so improved this year, and it’s showing in his volume and efficiency. Combined with his continued prowess at the rim, he’s got easy paths to great efficiency as an offensive player without even considering the mid-range.

Phil Booth’s shot chart

Phil Booth is back from a lost year and tearing it up from just about everywhere - we’ll forgive that mark from the short mid-range as small sample size theater. He’s been at more role player usage than star so far this year, which isn’t necessarily a terrible thing. We’ve got true offensive stars in Brunson and Bridges, with guys like Spellman coming into their own.

But Phil’s had an excellent off the dribble game in the past (did you know he scored 20 points in the national championship game?), and he’s been a bit reluctant to pull up from deep this season - just 7 of his 3-point makes are unassisted. If he feels like flexing a bit during the Big East schedule and lightening the load on the ‘B’ brothers, it’s not like I’ll be mad.

Omari Spellman’s shot chart

Omari has really started to come into his own as the season’s gone on. He’s hit double digits in 6 of his last 8 contests, and got to 27 against Temple. Oddly, he’s mostly doing his damage away from the basket. It’s not exactly unexpected - his shooting has been touted by the recruitniks on here since he committed - but the surprising part is just how bad he’s been near the basket, relative to his incredible shooting away from it. His 46% mark at the rim is legitimately the worst in the team’s rotation, and near the bottom of all qualified ‘big’ men I have in my stats. He ranks 217th in FG% near the rim among 224 ‘qualified’ bigs (i.e. players with more than 30 total shots on the year). That’s poor!

But he’s well over 40% from every zone in 3-point land, and 10-16 on his long mid-rangers. Once he cracks 50-55 % from close to the rim - if he does this year - he may be the most versatile scoring big man option Villanova’s ever seen.

Eric Paschall’s shot chart

Paschall’s count on made baskets from outside 13 feet is now up to two! His struggles from any sort of distance are well documented - he simply hasn’t been able to hit those shots this year. He’s got some touch from the lane, having hit 45% or so from within 13 feet - and away from the rim - but I can’t imagine that’s much spacing value.

He remains a real weapon around the rim, canning 36 of his 46 attempts from within 5 feet of the basket.

Donte DiVincenzo’s shot chart

I’m getting tired of writing up notes, so here’s a quick one for Donte. Well over half his 3s have been super deep - i.e. over 25 feet from the rim - and he’s hit 40% of them. I don’t love his tendency to pull up - but the man has been getting results so far this year. Would be happy with a few more shots at the rim, but not many complaints here.

Dhamir Cosby-Rountree’s shot chart

DCR has played a small role this year, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised with his touch around the basket. He’s been more than comfortable taking a few dribbles before dunking, and has been surprisingly good at avoiding bodies and contests when he goes up near the rim. I’m very excited to have him here at ‘Nova for the foreseeable future. Everything I’ve seen so far points to a bright future as a rim running big who will be able to step out to the perimeter to guard effectively. He may not quite be there this year, but it’s not hard to see him developing into a force on both ends as time goes on.

Collin Gillespie’s shot chart

And here’s Gillespie, mostly showing out as a 3-point shooter in his limited minutes pre-injury. If he can keep hitting 40% of his 3s, he should be able to remain a net positive presence even with the youth/athletic constraints he’s dealing with as a freshman at the other end.

And that’s all I have to run through on the shot chart front. I’ll be back with something tackling the possession stats I track, and then maybe something to finish up the week hitting questions like: (was just brainstorming) how our shooting in the 1st half affects shooting in the 2nd half, historically; how our defense performs when they don’t generate enough turnovers; Phil Booth and Donte DiVincenzo, points guards; and maybe something crowd-sourced from the comments or Twitter.

Let me know if there’s something you’re particularly interested in.