Villanova: Safest pick in the NCAA Tournament?

By: Brandon Hudson

The Villanova Wildcats have been one of the best, if not the best team in the country. Jay Wright has done a tremendous job of building the program into a perennial contender and they look primed for a Final Four every year.

He’s done so without the popular one-and-done players and has taken the path less traveled by developing talent the old-fashioned way. They are the safest choice to pick to win the tournament this season and I’ll tell you why.

First question, how can I say this when there hasn’t been a clear-cut dominant team this year in college basketball?

Well, for starters, Villanova is an experienced team. Key players in the rotation are either Juniors or Seniors. Many of the starters on this year’s roster played or were apart of the National Championship team back in 2015. A couple of those names include guards Jalen Brunson, Donte Divincenzo, Senior Guard Phil Booth and Junior Forwards, Mikal Bridges, Eric Paschall. The only underclassmen who play big minutes for the Wildcats are Red-shirt Freshman Omari Spellmen and he plays with the poise and confidence of an upperclassman +  sophomore Tim Delaney.

The next reason why Villanova is the safest choice is that they are one of the more talented teams in the country.

They have six players who average double figures and on any given night, someone besides Player of the Year candidate, Jalen Brunson can go off. Mikal Bridges has had huge games this year, Donte Divincenzo has gone off for 30 points, Phil Booth, Spellman, you get the picture. So if someone has an off game, the others usually pick up the slack which should scare opposing teams.

Villanova has faced their share of adversity this season playing without three of the core players in the rotation with injuries. This allowed players the opportunity to gain valuable experience and confidence. With those players now back healthy, Jay Wright can be assured that, if needed, he can rely on those players whether another injury happens, or if he sees a potential mismatch that he could exploit due to a player’s skill set. We’ve seen this happen time and time again, players can come from nowhere and that could be a feather in Jay Wright’s hat this postseason.

Villanova has one of the most effective offenses in the country. This is by the fact that they are arguably one of the more well-coached teams in terms of catching the ball, using pump fakes, utilizing hop steps and jump stops. They are always in control and every player shows a high level of basketball IQ. Villanova is very patient in their offense and always seems to get a high percentage shot. It’s really not a surprise, they run a 4-out one-in offense. This scheme allows Villanova to have their four best perimeter players and a big out on the court. This creates matchup problems and allows The Wildcats to space the floor to take advantage of that.

Now all of that is nice, but they are far from the perfect team.

An early exit may not be far-fetched once I discuss potential weaknesses that teams may be able to exploit. One reason they could face an early exit could be if they go cold from the perimeter.

Like the NBA, more college teams are attempting more three-pointers. Villanova is a prime example of following that trend as they feed off dribble penetration and kicking to the open man. When Villanova isn’t knocking down shots, their offense can struggle and without a dominant inside game, that could spell trouble if they face a team who can keep up with them offensively despite shooting struggles of their own. Jay Wright stresses how you’re never more open than when you first catch the ball. He encourages his players to take the open shot, leading to questionable shot selection at times. For them to be the team that can win it all, they will need to be accurate from three since they rely on it so heavily.

In addition to relying heavily on the three ball, Villanova basically outscores their opponents as they are not a team that relies heavily on their defense. They have the tools, but with the personnel, they usually are faced with giving up the size advantage to their opponent, seeing that they typically play one big with four perimeter players.

Another area in which Villanova may fall early is due to they lack size.  Omari Spellman, who is listed at 6’9 is the tallest player who logs valuable minutes for the Wildcats. Outside of Spellman, there are two others listed at 6’9, Dhamir Cosbey-Roundtree and Tim Delaney, they don’t play all that often. They are not a strong rebounding team as they rank 167th in total rebounds on the season and 244th in offensive rebounding. Their inability to get on the glass makes it that much more important that they shoot a high percentage.

Brandon Hudson runs The Hudson Hornet blog. Catch up on his work right here. We hope to have more guest posts from Brandon, especially with the NCAA tournament getting underway. 

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