Welcome back to PAND’s coverage of Villanova Basketball. Last week, the Villanova Wildcats took care of business against the UCONN Huskies at home, 68-60 and followed that by getting a massive revenge victory over St. John’s at home, 81-58.
Last week’s recap
Against UCONN last Saturday, the Wildcats played a very tightly contested first half against UCONN at the Finneran Pavilion. It was a grind, but a nice two-minute stretch midway through the second half from Nova gave them enough breathing room to work with down the stretch.
Collin Gillespie’s three with a little over three minutes to go ended up being the dagger for the Huskies. From there, the game turned into a free throw exhibition from Villanova. One of the definitive advantages of Villanova is the fact they’re so amazing at free throws (6th best in the nation). Fouling them to get back into a game is a tall order, as we stated last week in our preview.
The key for Nova was the defense. So many possessions for UCONN in the second half stagnated due to the clamps put down, resulting in a big dip in the UCONN shooting percentage. Regardless of how poorly Villanova shot the ball from deep (23%), they played so well in every other area and it didn’t seem to make a difference in the outcome.
On Tuesday, Villanova hosted St. John’s at Finneran Pavilion in a revenge game. It was set up nicely for Nova and executed well. The Wildcats played strong defense, forcing 16 turnovers and holding the Red Storm to just 3-23 from deep. Nova shot 48% from the field and 42% from deep.
Despite loose play offensively, the Wildcats were hot enough shooting the ball to overcome their 15 turnovers and 60% average from the line. It wasn’t reminiscent of most of their wins this season, but the open-flow of this game was working well for Villanova, so they felt comfortable enough to play it this way for the duration of the contest. It was a great, vengeful performance, and a good way to set themselves up for a favorable final stretch.
NOV 25 (W) – Boston College 76-67
NOV 26 (W) – Arizona State 83-74
NOV 28 (L) – Virginia Tech 73-81
DEC 1 (W) – Hartford 87-53
DEC 6 (W) – Texas 68-64
DEC 11 (W) – Georgetown 76-63
DEC 16 (W) – Butler 85-63
DEC 19 (W) – Saint Joseph’s 88-68
DEC 23 (W) – Marquette 85-68
JAN 19 (W) – Seton Hall 76-74
JAN 23 (W) – Providence 71-56
JAN 30 (W) – Seton Hall 80-72
FEB 3 (L) – St. John’s 59-70
FEB 7 (W) – Georgetown 84-74
FEB 10 (W) – Marquette 96-64
FEB 13 (L) – Creighton 86-70
FEB 20 (W) – UCONN 68-60
FEB 23 (W) – St. John’s 81-58
Villanova for this week
This week, Villanova hopes to keep up their winning ways against Buster and Creighton.
Villanova vs Butler
This Sunday, Villanova (15-3, 10-2) will travel to Butler to face the Bulldogs (8-13, 7-11). Butler had lost three in a row before winning by nine at home against Seton Hall. Butler is among the worst teams in the Big East this season.
Their offense is awful and their defense isn’t good either. They’re 219th in defensive rating and 295th in offensive rating. Aside from their heavy volume of three-point shots attempted each week (21.7 avg with 7 made on avg), they are 220th or worse in every major offensive and defensive category.
Butler is at a disadvantage in every category, so they’re going to have to play extremely aggressively and shoot very well to take out Villanova. I think Villanova will cruise, much like they did the first time these two played.
Prediction: Villanova 77 Butler 61
Crighton vs Villanova
Next Wednesday, Villanova will host Creighton in the most important game of the season. It’s a revenge game for Villanova and a potential Big East crown for the winning team.
In their first meeting on February 13th, the Wildcats were outgunned 59% to 38% from the field and 46% to 31% from deep. The explanation was simple, but three-fold.
The Jays’ shooting was stellar, their guards got easy buckets in the paint, and James Robinson-Earl had a rough night all-around. It also didn’t help Villanova lost the battle on the boards, but that wasn’t a big reason they lost by 16. This time around, Villanova will have to do better with the interior defense.
James Robinson-Earl has to do a better job staying out of foul trouble and still stay aggressive on offense. The Wildcats also need to have a decent shooting night. If they can accomplish this, they will give themselves a nice cushion in the race to win the Big East. I expect Villanova will make the appropriate adjustments this time around and all but secure the top seed for the Big East Tournament.
Prediction: Villanova 76 Creighton 75
Big Ten Conference Champion (Tournament) Michigan is +150
I want to shift the focus away from the Big East and turn your attention to the Big Ten, which is currently being taken over by the Michigan Wolverines.
The Wolverines have the 11th best offensive and 66th best defensive ratings in the nation. Their offense is high-efficiency, to say the least. The Wolverines are 17-1 overall, ranked 15th in FG percentage, 15th in three-point percentage, and 28th in assists.
Defensively, they are 7th in defensive rebounds, 21st in blocks, and 4th in opponent field goal percentage (38.4%). By the metrics, this is a very strong team. If they have any weaknesses, it appears to be offensive rebounding and steals.
Aside from one stinker against Minnesota, Michigan has looked great this season. They are fresh off a road win at Ohio State and really only face a test from Illinois before the Big Ten Tournament. This team has a lot of talent and momentum. I like their odds to win the Big Ten Tournament.