Do These Four Things & You Can Beat Villanova
Other than being super handsome and possibly having access to a cloning machine that is set to “6’3” guard that can dribble, pass and shoot pretty,” Jay Wright is a great basketball coach. It more or less never fails: every single year they play a brand of basketball that’s difficult to deal with.
They’re skilled, they play together, they shoot it well, and so on and so forth.
Here are some puns:
In 2018, they do not stray from doing things the Wright Way. Wright on target. Wright where we wanna be. ‘Wright’ said Fred (Hoiberg?). Great coach, in his own Wright. Wright as rain. The kids are all Wright. Currently on the Wright side of history.
Villanova can score the ****ing basketball. Offensively, they are in rarified air, in case you haven’t heard. Currently sitting at (according to Ken Pom) 127.6 in adjusted offensive efficiency for the season. Since this stat has been kept (2002), only one team has had a higher offensive rating for a season: 2015 Wisconsin. You remember them — Frank the Tank, Sam, Nigel Hayes, those dudes.
Their scoring is incredibly balanced in their top six players. All six guys average double figures (SIX!), and the two-headed snake at the forefront of that attack is Jalen Brunson (19.1 PPG) and Mikel Bridges (18.0 PPG). Both are physical, patient players with a wealth of experience. Both guys were also on the court a ton in Nova’s 2016 National Championship run.
So, let’s say, hypothetically, you wanted to beat Villanova. How would you do it?
Here are some important checkpoints if you want to tame a Wildcat dander allergy in March.
I. GET. BACK.
Nova’s offense is deadly because of how balanced it is and how fast it operates.
Getting back defensively is crucial against Villanova because of their offensive philosophy. Nova wants to make a post move, shoot a three or find a straight-line drive within the first moment of having the ball. Their sole intent is to catch you unprepared and to attack before the defense is set. They want you off balance and scrambling. They do this by eliminating any inkling of hesitation and shot faking you to death. Discomfort is the name of the game.
This can make their shot selection seem chaotic, but it’s all by design. Don’t confuse speed with freewheeling recklessness. Their speed is guided and methodical. If they suspect that you aren’t quick to get back into your defensive scheme, they will run their primary and secondary breaks even off of made baskets. Their whole unit, bigs included (really it’s usually just one, so, singular big, I guess) is extremely mobile.
Have to, have to, have to, have to get back and limit their transition break. Also important to remember that “transition” is different for a team like Villanova. Makes or misses, they can put the pressure on you.
II. Force them to guard the interior.
As we said before, Nova’s strength as an offensive team is a result of their extremely versatile top six players. The one caveat of playing so quickly and having such a sophisticated motion offense is that you’re typically playing with smaller players (unless you’re the Golden State Warriors). There isn’t a player over 6’9” on their roster, and they primarily depend on Omari Spellman (6’9” freshman) and Eric Paschall (6’6” junior) to carry the bulk of the load inside.
Rim protection is not a focus of Villanova’s defensive approach. They’d rather take charges, aggravate and pressure your primary ball handlers into making tough passes over multiple defenders, and get steals.
Don’t expect to pound it inside and take your sweet ass time backing down a smaller Villanova player – the extra pressure will come and it’ll come quickly, so the decision making there has to be crisp. You have to hope that foul trouble and offensive rebounding contribute to your case.
III. Keep the possession count low.
I know what you’re thinking: this doesn’t mean take the air out of the ball. If each team has 10 possessions or if each team has 10,000 (the D’Antoni wet dream) – Villanova is still more likely to score consistently per possession than you are, and subsequently to hit more threes. All of this goes back to pace, and you want to make sure that (unless you are Steve Kerr reading this and you’re somehow playing Villanova), you keep the pace from becoming an 85-100 point game, where your chances of winning decrease.
So how do you limit possessions? If your team is long enough (Duke is probably the best candidate at this point) you might be able to sit back and eliminate the worry of switching/not switching some of the trickier actions that the screeners do in Nova’s offense. Their roll and replace is particularly good:
Obviously this leaves you susceptible to their otherworldly ability to shoot the three. Again, if you have the length to pressure and slow down the passing lanes when they perform one of their patented lightning fast ball reversals, you have to do it. Winning the rebounding battle, wisely using the shot clock, avoiding trouble areas on the floor where Nova loves to force turnovers – just a few ways you can keep from playing the style of ball that they would prefer.
IV. Avoid bad shots like the plague.
Don’t get in a manhood measurin’ contest
The temptation to play fast is a macho competition for most guards on planet earth, but that temptation has to be avoided at all costs.
No team has beaten Villanova this season without shooting the ball at least reasonably well. It’s cliché to say ‘hey pal, makes some shots.’ I’m aware. Every team in the universe is better when they make shots. In that way, basketball can be remarkably simple at times, when you’re retracing your steps and trying to figure out why you won or lost. Laying an egg from three and failing to at least hit some shots is the easiest way to give yourself a chance against such unrelenting offensive pressure.
So there you go! Also, you’d better hope they’re not hot from three! Byyyy-eeeeeeeee…
*Pulls out a hidden hang glider*
*Disappears into the night*