Fatal Flaw: Why Villanova Won't Win National Title

Tuesday, February 5, 2019 12:09 PM UTC

Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 12:09 PM UTC

Villanova is currently the defending NCAA tournament champion. But after this year's tournament, they won't be defending champions any longer.

<p>Last year, Villanova went 36-4 with their three losses coming in hostile environments on the road in conference play. They won all six NCAA tournament games by double digits. Statistically, they ranked first in offensive efficiency and 11th in defensive efficiency. This year's Villanova (+2000 <a href="https://www.sportsbookreview.com/Sportsbook/?v=4446&amp;book=BetOnline" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="Top Rated Sportsbook!">at BetOnline</a> to win the national title), though, is not nearly as stacked as last year's. Villanova already has more losses (five) than it did all of last year. This year's Nova would arguably have more losses against last year's competition because the Big East was stronger. This year, typically higher-seeded tournament teams like Xavier and Butler are, at best, barely tournament-quality.</p><p>Last year's Villanova boasted extraordinary scoring depth with six different players averaging double-digit points per game. But Nova's top four scorers departed including National Player of the Year point guard Jalen Brunson. With Brunson, Villanova's offense wasn't just deep, but it also had a superstar talent who averaged 18.9 points per game while ranking top-250 in both assist rate and turnover rate.</p><p>This year's Nova is more top-heavy. It relies primarily on Eric Paschall and Phil Booth, both of whom average over 17 points per game. Only one other Wildcat averages double-digit scoring. Because neither of them are as good--as measured, for example, by KenPom offensive rating-- as Brunson was, Villanova's offense isn't as successfully top-heavy. Also, <a href="http://www.sportsbookreview.com/picks/ncaa-basketball/" target="_blank" title="More NCAAB Picks">Nova's offense isn't as deep</a>. For both reasons, Nova is averaging 10.4 points per game fewer than last year's, despite facing a softer schedule based on KenPom's aggregated quality of defenses and offenses faced.</p><p>A major structural issue with Villanova's offense has become its lack of balance. This year's Wildcats are significantly more reliant on three-point shooting. They miss Brunson, who was phenomenal in using his strength, ability to change pace and direction, and footwork to drive to the basket and draw contact. He could also pull up for a mid-range jumper. He ranked 196th in two-point efficiency and 446th in rate of fouls drawn. Neither Booth nor Paschall come close to that level of quality in the paint. Nova also misses another current NBA player in Mikal Bridges for his efficiency inside. None of Nova's higher-minute guys are even close in two-point efficiency to Bridges, Brunson, or fellow departed player Donte DiVincenzo.</p><p>[/]{"component": "embedHTML", "code": "&lt;iframe width=\"560\" height=\"315\" src=\"https://www.youtube.com/embed/HHki4AQxhAQ\" frameborder=\"0\" allow=\"accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture\" allowfullscreen&gt;&lt;/iframe&gt;"}[/]</p><p><a href="https://www.sportsbookreview.com/betting-odds/ncaa-basketball/" target="_blank" title="Live NCAAB Odds Board">The deepest flaw of this year's Villanova is actually its defense</a>. Nova's defense ranks 82nd in efficiency. Let's look at past champions to see how significant this statistic is. Last year's champion, Villanova, ranked 11th in defensive efficiency. The previous year's champion, North Carolina, also ranked 11th in defensive efficency. The champion before, Villanova, ranked fifth in defensive efficiency. The 2015 champion before UNC, Duke, ranked 11th in defensive efficiency. The list goes on. The adage, "defense wins championships," is factually true, but Nova's defense ranks at least 71 spots behind any of those prior champions.</p><p>Currently, Nova is allowing 66.6 points per game. 66.6 is a lot for them because of how slow the tempo is in their games--which is why defensive efficiency is a crucial statistic--it measures a defense's success per possession. Against teams who could be considered national title contenders, Villanova's defense has especially faltered. For example, it allowed 73 points in a blowout to Michigan and 74 points to Kansas (as Kansas was healthy).</p><p>The Wildcats' perimeter defense has regressed in terms of opposing three-point percentage and opposing rate of threes attempted. Its interior defense has also regressed after the departure of Omari Spellman and Bridges, both of whom delivered a high block rate while playing many minutes.</p>
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