Monday, April 13, 2009

Four Factors That May Have Torpedoed Villanova's Chances of Upsetting North Carolina in the Final Four

To the Villanova Wildcats faithful-

Of course, I hope all of you had an enjoyable Easter weekend...

Looking at the outcome, back on the evening of Saturday, April 4, with more detachment-

I think that a combination of factors made the difference, between the loss and what
could have been a major upset.
These factors rose in importance, because looking at the dry numbers on the box score, two elements aren't consistent with a 14-point loss, in which you trailed badly, for nearly the entire game.
  1. Villanova - despite being far smaller - actually won the rebounding battle, 50-46, including hauling down 19 on the offensive end, to North Carolina's 14.
  2. The teams both had a dozen turnovers.
So in no particular order, the downsides:
  1. The number of missed three-point shots that a) were open, and/or b) that rattled in and out. Villanova shot 5/27 from three-point range, a miserable 18.5%. And it wasn't just that the Wildcats' best perimeter shooters missed many shots. There seemed to be a disproportionate number of open looks that were not made, and also a good number that rattled in and out... If Villanova had made, say, 8 of 27 (which is still very poor - less than 33%), the entire tenor of the game would have been different, because the Wildcats would have remained within striking distance.
  2. Inability to get to the foul line. One of Villanova's major strengths this year has been free throw shooting accuracy. When it got to the line, Villanova did very well at the line on Saturday, making 12/16 of the line, an impressive 75%. But the Wildcats were unable to do what they often do - drive the lane effectively and draw fouls. North Carolina took far more shots at the line (22/37), and while the shooting percentage was poor (just 59.5%), the Tar Heels netted out a ten-point advantage.
  3. Enormous difficulty, in scoring underneath the basket. Granted, given the disadvantage that Villanova faced in terms of height, this might have been problematic, under any circumstances. North Carolina not only had Tyler Hansbrough, but Roy Williams could bring in two quality players off the bench. They had in reserve, Ed Davis, 6/10 and the team leader in blocks - and also a 7-footer, Tyler Zeller, off the bench, if they had needed him (he played just 2 minutes, as opposed to Davis's 22 minutes). But with Villanova's three-point shooters missing often, North Carolina could continue to stay packed in the lane- and force Villanova's drivers to take bad shots in traffic.
  4. On a lighter note- Jay Wright's pigs let us down. The pigs in Wright's aptly named "pig pocket", in the interior of his suit, were a good luck charm suggested by his daughter several weeks ago. The pigs had been 9-2, entering the game against North Carolina. But, regrettably, the pigs did not deliver at crunch time.
Go Wildcats!

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John E. said...

Thoughts on the starting lineup next year? I posted my thoughts on a discussion on another site, but I wanted to get your take.

Anonymous said...

Nice summary. The number of trips down court that came up dry was frustrating.

When the three's aren't falling and you get smothered going inside, it's hard to score!

Since Rollie's time I have always taken some mild satisfaction when it took the national champion or the runner up to knock us out. Don't even need that satisfaction this year. No sour grapes. It was just a memorable Wildcat year -- right up there with '71 and '85.


Villanova Viewpoint Publisher said...

Hello, John E.-

Great to hear from you, and thanks for the comment. Here's my best answer (only unfounded speculation, of course), as to our starting lineup for 2009-10-

There are two unsettled questions about the players returning, before we can determine the various scenarios...

The first is whether Scottie Reynolds will leave for the NBA. The second is how good Taylor King is, the former Duke Blue Devil who transferred in and just completed his transfer year off the floor (although he was allowed to practice with the team.)

Based on King's numbers in his single year at Duke, I think he might be good enough to start next season, but there's no real way to tell right now.

If Reynolds were to leave, I would think that Fisher would take over the point, with his sixth-man minutes going to other players.

There is, also, the fact that the incoming recruiting class is arguably the best in the nation. With Dante Cunningham, the team's only post presence, graduating, it seems possible that freshmen in the frontcourt would see a lot of minutes...

Villanova Viewpoint Publisher said...

Hello, Seamus-

Thanks for the comment. My thoughts:

I agree with you, that there is, in fact, some honor in falling to the eventual winner of a tournament, NCAA, NIT, Big East, holiday... If you have to lose, you might as well lose to the best.

This was the second year in a row, and the fourth time in five years, that we've lost to the eventual winner, which is remarkable:

2005 - North Carolina
2006 - Florida
2008 - Kansas
2009 - North Carolina

Only exception in that span was 2007, we lost to Kentucky, in the first round...

Anonymous said...

I put the runner up in there too, since Houston's Phi Slamma Jamma knocked out one of Rollie's great teams led by John Pinone.

Be very interesting to see what we look like next year. I think Scotty comes back. Both he and Dante are remarkable college players, but I'm not sure either is NBA material. Love to be proven wrong.

The recruits? Don't know anything about them. I can't even name the players, although I know the class seems to have a huge reputation. But I'm going to be shocked if there's a front line player who's ready to make an immediate impact in the Big East.

Might have a typical progression of one of Jay's teams: experimenting with different lineups in December; figuring it out in January; getting good in February; and rounding into form as the BET rolls around.

Be a fascinating year.


Villanova Viewpoint Publisher said...

Hello, Seamus-

Good comment from you, as usual. My thoughts-

Certainly, the biggest question is whether Reynolds returns to Villanova, as I mentioned in the earlier post. As for Cunningham, I remember a SportsCenter commentator speculating that Cunningham would be in the NBA next season, but that's only speculating. If either or both are good enough, more power to them.

As for the new players - we have seen unheralded recruits make a huge impact - and vice versa - so there's no real way to tell. Other things being equal, it's great to have recruits highly touted by analysts, but it's not a guarantee that they'll turn out to have a major effect on the program...

Keep on commenting...

Go Wildcats!