Villanova has now won six games in a row and its latest victory was the most impressive of this winning streak.
The ‘Cats dominated Butler en route to a 40-point win and were two points away from doubling Butler’s 42 points. Yes, Butler only scored 42 points in the Wildcats’ win and only 19 in the second half.
This is the same Butler team that won on the road in Norman against Oklahoma, who is a projected tournament team. Bryce Nze, one of Butler’s best players and starters, didn’t even play against Oklahoma, but he did play 23 minutes against the ‘Cats.
This isn’t a statement win, but it is further proof that Villanova has hit a different gear in the last month and is ready to compete for a top seed in March.
Jay’s Best Defense?
17 games isn’t a full season but this ‘Nova team could end the season as one of, if not, Jay Wright’s best defensive squad at Villanova. The Wildcats’ scoring defense is up to 21st in the country after the Butler win and teams are shooting below 40% from the floor against them for the season. Teams are also shooting below 30% from distance against the ‘Cats.
The 2014-15 ‘Cats finished the season with Jay Wright’s best scoring defense at 60.9 points allowed per game. After the Butler win, these ‘Cats are averaging 60.4 points allowed. This is an absolutely incredible effort from ‘Nova thus far.
They’re doing a great job of not allowing teams to penetrate and get downhill into the paint. Butler only made nine shots inside the arc all game. The combination of length and speed from Bryan Antoine, Justin Moore and Brandon Slater on the opponent’s lead guard has really set the tone for the half-court defense.
The switching has been excellent and a lot of it is having the right personnel. Jermaine Samuels and Eric Dixon have just enough foot speed to at least challenge a smaller ball handler. Moore and Caleb Daniels are physical and strong enough to not give up something easy when he gets switched on a post player. These scenarios don’t happen a lot as ‘Nova is good about switching back but when they do happen, they have the players to survive mismatches.
Villanova’s defense has reached a level where teams have to work really hard to score on a possession. Teams are struggling to even get a good look. I’ve seen it throughout this six-game run and over and over in the Butler game. When the strength of a team reaches this kind of level consistently, they have a clear identity to use to win games in March.
The guys you want shooting 3-pointers for ‘Nova were shooting them against Butler. The ‘Cats made 12 3-pointers for an insane 63% from beyond the arc. Collin Gillespie, Justin Moore, and Caleb Daniels combined to go 10 for 14 from 3-point range. These are Nova’s clear threats from distance, and they proved why against Butler.
Justin Moore specifically made a couple spot up 3’s with a hand right in his face. He continues to impress with his ability to knock down contested jumpers. Collin Gillespie knocked down five himself and may have the best pull up jumper from behind the arc in the country. Gillespie is effective whether he’s pulling up his dribble after a screen his set for him in a pick and roll scenario or catching it off of an off-ball screen and then pulling up after a dribble or two. Both of these guards have an ability to knock down big time shots.
Bryan Antoine has yet to find his groove shooting this season, but I believe he will have his moments and his jumper will be there.
Brandon Slater and Jermaine Samuels didn’t attempt a 3-pointer against Butler, and they’ve been attempting fewer and fewer. Slater is averaging 1.1 3-pointers attempted per game since the Syracuse win and Samuels is averaging 1.6 3-pointers attempted per game in that same time frame. This is after both players had multiple games of attempting at least seven. I think their focus on operating below the arc more has helped give Villanova more structure on offense.
Dixon has established himself as a true low post threat while Gillespie, Moore and Daniels are the primary jump shooters. This can leave Samuels and Slater operating as slashers, being effective without the ball.
‘Nova had 21 assists against Butler and made 28 shots. That’s a pretty great ratio. Justin Moore had five, Eric Dixon had four, and Collin Gillespie and Bryan Antoine each had three apiece.
They shared the ball in a variety of ways against Butler. Eric Dixon drew a double team at times and was able to pass to a teammate for an easy layup or open jumper. Dixon’s passing ability is becoming more and more evident.
Justin Moore used post ups to draw attention and kick it out to a teammate for a good look at a 3-pointer. He does a good job of keeping his dribble alive in the post.
Villanova’s passing has improved throughout the season, and it has helped alleviate not being a team with great foot speed. Eric Dixon’s impact has to be mentioned in this regard. There were a number of possessions against Butler where ‘Nova was swinging it around the perimeter and their possession didn’t break their way until they passed it to Dixon down low who drew extra attention. Dixon’s presence and his ability to pass has added a new dimension to the ‘Nova offense.