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Xavier at Villanova: the Nova Crossover Exam

Breaking down the No. 5 Wildcats' win over Xavier.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 5 Villanova Wildcats' entered their fifth Big East Conference matchup with the Xavier Musketeers with some momentum. It carried over into the start of this game.

What Villanova Did Well:

1.  MAKING SHOTS!!!

I said the same thing following the St. John's game.  When Villanova is making shots they are one of the nation's toughest teams to beat.  The Wildcats had five players in double figures with Ryan Arcidiacono stepping up in an 18 point, 6 assist performance on 50% shooting from the field.  Villanova ran out early to a 27-16 lead on 7-of-10 from beyond the arc through ten minutes. The Wildcats did this without much help from Kris Jenkins, one of their best outside shooters.  The Wildcats continue to show that they are truly a team that has 7-8 players who can drop 15 points on you at any time. When Arch is hitting them, you know you're in trouble.

2.  Nova owns Xavier

Villanova is 3-0 against the Muskies since they joined the Big East, 19-4 all-time. This game was only won by 13, but it felt like it was worse. Villanova was able to move the ball freely through the air and off the dribble against this Xavier team that is clearly going through some growing pains.  Xavier fans might say, 'we were close, we dominated in the paint' and the scoring numbers may at first appear to support that. Xavier outscored Villanova 46-18 in the paint, but watching the game tape shows the reason why Villanova shot 34 three's. They were wide open! Xavier's game plan was quite obviously to make Villanova hit shots outside as they collapsed and doubled down low to prevent points in the paint. Sometimes this works (Seton Hall) and other times Villanova drops 15 three-pointers on you. The swing pass was constantly available and exploited by the highly-ranked Wildcats.

3.  Villanova Protects the Rock

Hard to tell whether it was a result of Xavier's feeble defense or Villanova's high-level guard play, but Villanova only turned the ball over 5 times all night. Ryan Arcidiacono's game has grown exponentially in this regard. He really knows when to push the ball and when to hold back. Even the team's offensive aggressor, Dylan Ennis only coughed it up twice. The biggest key to this was crisp and efficient passing. The Wildcats had someone open on the floor 85% of the time due to Xavier's attempts to crowd the paint. The Wildcats exploited this by working the ball around the perimeter and playing some inside-out ball with Pinkston and Ochefu to consistently find the open man.

What Should the Wildcats Fix?

1.  Settling for Shots

The shots were there and the Wildcats took them. That's fine when you're making shots. Villanova's shooting started to cool off midway through the second half and they didn't want to adjust much. 34 three's is a lot. The Wildcats need to find a way to open up some more of their mid-range game. They were either bombing it, laying it in or pulling up in the paint. If they could open up a little more of their midrange shooting their offense could truly round out. Three's are great when you make them, but its tough going when you're cold. We know this team can go cold.

Notes:

  • Does anyone know what Daniel Ochefu did to earn a Technical Foul? I can't figure it out. Ochefu barely did a thing. Maybe the refs wanted to try to keep it close?
  • Villanova improves to 16-1 and 4-1 in the Big East.
  • The Wildcats are shooting 38-for-86 from deep over their last 3 games.
  • Xavier drops to 2-3 in conference and 11-6 overall.
  • Josh Hart had a stellar night, shooting 6-of-10 to go off for 15points and 7 rebounds. He really is Villanova's sixth starter, he entered the game after only three minutes.
  • Villanova heads to the Cathedral of College Hoops, Penn's Palestra, for their final game of the Big 5 round robin and their last non-con game of the regular season.