Villanova was out of sorts early against Temple. They allowed open shots, turned the ball over and gave up offensive rebounds.
Early Eric Dixon foul trouble forced the team to play without their starting center for most of the first half. Even with these setbacks, Villanova was still able to erase a 13-point deficit and get back in the game. An impressive feat considering there were only two 3-pointers all game. Despite the effort, the ‘Cats were unable to complete the comeback, losing on a series of made free throws by the Owls in the final minute. This was no doubt a disappointing loss, but this program has dealt with early loses before and bounced back. Adjustments and improvements will need to be made however.
Defensive struggles against opposing guards
Containing guards has been a problem for Villanova to start the season. The ‘Cats gave up 22 points to La Salle’s Josh Nickelberry, and over 20 points to both Khalif Battle and Damian Dunn each. Even though some of their makes we’re heavily contested, a better job has to be done to take them out of their rhythm. Villanova did have some success going to the zone, but surprisingly went away from it down the stretch. The 1-2-2 press could potentially help in slowing opposing guards but hasn’t made an appearance yet. Regardless of what type of defense the ‘Cats play there has to be better communication and players can’t get beat of the dribble so easily. The margin for error with the current injury situation is small, so the ‘Cats can’t afford to give up easy baskets. Expect to see improvement over the next couple games.
Still trying to find an offensive identity
From an offensive perspective the first two games have been very different in style. Against La Salle the team was shooting threes with confidence. Against Temple the team only attempted seven threes total, at times not even looking to shoot. Part of this was because the ‘Cats were having success inside driving and posting up, but also Temple’s defensive effort was solid. The Owls denied the ‘Cats at the perimeter, drove them off the line, stayed home on the perimeter, and dared the ‘Cats to beat them one-on-one. Temple clogged the paint, and made it harder on players posting up. Not relying solely on 3-pointers is good, but this team won’t win many games taking less than 10 threes a game. Whether it will take more creativity, or more guys to be healthy and ready in time, the sweet spot for 3-point attempts is likely around 20-25 a game, depending on the matchup.
Getting production from ‘the other guys’
It’s clear that Daniels, Dixon, Longino and Slater are going to be the primary producers most nights. The question is where else will production come from until Cam Whitmore is ready. Both Mark Armstrong and Angelo Brizzi played well in their minutes and will be relied upon to score. Chris Arcidiacono worked on the glass, but he’ll need to create more for others or add a bigger mark on the scoreboard. Nnanna Njoku looked good in the preseason exhibitions, but now finds himself out of the rotation. Hopefully, he can stay ready because opportunities will come eventually. For Trey Patterson the key is defense and being a dynamic versatile forward. If the ‘Cats are unable to get enough production from the bench expect to see a smaller rotation and even heavier minutes for the starters.