1. Balanced Offense is hard to stop.
The Villanova Wildcats again rode their balanced scoring to a strong offensive performance. You cannot focus on one player to win against this team as multiple players score in double figures every game. On Wednesday, Ryan Arcidiacono led the way with 15 points and five assists. Arch had a slow start for the Wildcats and sported a wrist wrap for some time during the early season.
Now that his wrist appears to be healed look for him to increase his 8.3 points per game over the course of the conference schedule. That appears to be healed as he has now dropped 31 points in his last two games. The junior point guard from Langhorne, Pennsylvania is still only averaging 23 percent from the 3-point line. As he continues to find his stroke, this number will definitely go up.
This is promising for the 'Cats as the only times they've struggled has been when they are shooting poorly. Another positive for Villanova was the interior play of JayVaughn Pinkston (13 points, three rebounds, three assists) and Daniel Ochefu (10 points, nine boards, five blocks). If they can continue to contribute in this fashion the Wildcats will truly have seven players who can score in double figures on any given night. Not many teams can say the same.
2. Defensive pressure is key.
AJB: The Wildcats have a true shot-blocking presence for the first time in many years. 6-foot-11 Daniel Ochefu had 5 blocks this season for his high this year. He previously had swatted four shots in the Illinois game. Ochefu is averaging 1.7 blocks per game. The other amazing thing is the dramatic jump that JayVaughn Pinkston has made for the Wildcats in shot-blocking. While Pinkston only had one on New Year's Eve, he's had some impressive blocks as the year has gone on (Ahem... Michigan). Pinkston is now averaging 1.2 blocks per game, which is twice his average from last year.
So what does all this mean? Increased perimeter pressure. For Villanova, a 3- or 4-guard lineup often requires a lot of collapsing to ensure for sufficient interior pressure. When you collapse, you leave the perimeter open. If you want to see what that looks like, take a look at both Creighton games from the 2013-14 season. This year the Wildcats have increased their blocks per game by over a half a block per game. That's about a 14 percent increase over last year. I put to you that this number would be higher if we required Daniel Ochefu to play more than 23 minutes per game, which he is certainly capable of doing. If Villanova can maintain pressure in their half-court set, they will be a truly complete team defensively. With their athleticism, talent, balanced scoring and high pressure defense they could get as far as... well, any great team could get.
1. Rebounding was terrible
EK: It's been a struggle the entire season, and against Butler, the Villanova Wildcats once again had a rough go in creating any sort of momentum in the rebounding department. Coming into the game, the 'Cats were struggling on the boards, eighth in the conference in rebounding before New Year's Eve, and it wasn't any better against the Bulldogs. Once again, they were outrebounded, this time by 13, and the worst part of this came when Butler was on offense. Despite being undersized in the big men department, the Bulldogs still managed to grab 17 offensive rebounds, giving them second and third chances on multiple occasions and keeping them in the game in the late first half and early second half. The worst part about it is the fact that it didn't seem like the Bulldogs were doing anything special to grab these offensive boards. At times, it just seemed as if they were outworking the 'Cats, especially on several occasions with Roosevelt Jones.
So, the question becomes how does Jay Wright and Co. fix the issue? Well, I think a lot of it comes down to more fundamentals than anything else. In no way is this rebounding issue a problem that has been born from a lack of athleticism or size, Nova has plenty of that in the front court with JayVaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu. Instead, it just seems like they are getting outworked for these rebounds and aren't boxing out correctly or identifying their men. If they just sure up in those fundamental areas, I think this is a very fixable issue.