As head coach, Jay Wright gets credited for the team's successes as a whole and derided for its failures. He is charged with teaching, guiding and leading a program from year-to-year in order to maximize the success of his players. So, when grading the coach, we have to start off by looking at the team's performance as a whole.
That bodes well for Wright's grade this season. The 'Cats were not expected to do a whole lot more this season than they did in 2012-13. That said, while the team seemed largely consistent through their campaign, they were not without concerning moments. Each of their five losses this season drew forward concerns about the Wildcats that showed that there was in-fact a chink in their armor.
Jay Wright's challenge will be to patch that armor up over the offseason and find ways to win next year.
What was expected
Villanova received votes but was not ranked to start the season in the polls, indicating that most voters didn't expect the Wildcats to be one of the better teams in the country. They recorded 14 points, which was enough to make them the 33rd-rated team, but not nearly enough to have shown up on a majority of ballots. Expectations were not that the Wildcats were unworthy of presumed success, but few were anticipating even a minor poll appearance before the season began.
In the Big East Conference, the coaches ranked Villanova fourth in their preseason polling. The Wildcats were supposed to finish no higher than that in the standings, with Marquette, Creighton and Georgetown picked ahead of them in that order. Winning the title was not out of reach by that measure, but it certainly wasn't the outcome that was expected either.
Coming from the 2012-13 season, the Wildcats' defense was rated well, statistically, and with substantially all of the key players returning from that team it was expected to remain strong again this year. While a top-25 defensive performance may have been anticipated, however, the offense was much more of a grind in previous seasons, and few would have expected much different from these familiar faces.
Vote from Wisdom of Crowds
We are more optimistic about the PPG of individual players than the team as a whole. Tallying the individual PPG predictions would suggest that the team will score 88.9 PPG (assuming all players play in all games). However, when asked how many points the team would score, the Crowd predicted only 73.6 PPG.
The Wildcats actually averaged about 78 points per game, a bit higher than the Crowd predicted for them as a whole, but less than the Crowd picked when individual predictions were tallied up. Adjusted to tempo-free, they averaged 113.9 points per 100 possessions during the season, which is a tremendous improvement over previous years.
In the season prior, the team had averaged just 103.6 on offense, good for just 117th in college basketball and barely above the average of 100.4. A year later, their offensive efficiency was rated 24th in Division I hoops, even with average scoring improving to 104.3 for all of Division I.
Defensively, the Wildcats improved upon their 23rd ranking to finish the season allowing just 94.5 points per 100 possessions — good enough for 16th.
Villanova was strong in every statistical category on KenPom.com, except for two: 3-point defense and opponent free throw percentage — only one of which the Wildcats can be charged with allowing.
A late November win over a highly-ranked Kansas team at the Battle 4 Atlantis rocketed the Wildcats up the AP Poll and proved that the guard-heavy looks could play with and defend just about anyone. The Jayhawks showed up in the Bahamas as heavy favorites, with their resume bolstered by a win over Duke in their second game. Wright and his staff handed Bill Self his first loss of the year, holding a team that had scored no-fewer-than 80 points in five previous games to just 59.
With five games realistically n the running, the pick for worst game goes to the 'Cats February 16th meeting with Creighton. While Villanova generally seemed to be pulling themselves back together after a dismantling at the hands of the Blue Jays at the end of January, they failed to learn from their experience at the Wells Fargo Center and took a similar beating on the road in Omaha.
B+ - This season was an overall success for Villanova. Expectations were very much moderated for the young Wildcats, who generally rose above the levels they played at last year to show the college basketball world that they could play with anyone. The coaching staff led by Jay Wright gets full credit for the development of players like Tahj Bell, who found strength in the spotlight as a senior; or of Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston, who were consistent options for the offense and defense. They also get credit for the performance of a team that committed fully to playing defense, rebounding and passing the ball much more than in the past.
Wright and his staff lose points, however, for a soft finish to the season. An early exit in the Big East tournament and the NCAA left something to be desired. As good as UConn was (obviously), the Wildcats just left fans thinking that perhaps they could have done more. The two losses to Creighton were both devastating to Villanova's tournament seeding as well as their respect nationally as well, and blame for that falls on coaching, who could not find a scheme to stop the Jays, while seven other staffs did.