Three Key Factors For Villanova Tonight…

Posted by Justin Kundrat on April 4th, 2016

One game remains in the 2015-16 college basketball season and the storylines surrounding it are plentiful. Villanova and North CarolinaKenpom‘s #1 and #2 teams, will square off in a battle between the most statistically efficient offenses in the nation. Two-point shooting aside, however, these teams could not be more different. The former bases its scoring attack on guard play — all of which are proficient shooters and slashers — while spotting a lone big man inside to aid with ball movement and spacing. The latter runs an offense heavily predicated on second chance points with the focus on getting the ball to its dominant frontcourt players in scoring position. North Carolina thrives in transition and pushes the ball frequently off of defensive rebounds; Villanova has succeeded by running controlled half-court sets. Tonight should come down to two different styles: winning with size vs. winning with spacing. Below are three keys that will decide the champion.

Josh Hart and Villanova Seek to Take Home Its Second National Title (USA Today Images)

Josh Hart and Villanova Seek to Take Home the School’s Second National Title (USA Today Images)

  1. North Carolina’s ability to successfully make entry passes and establish post position. Villanova’s numerous defensive schemes have been wildly effective when it comes to stifling opposing offenses. Its guards put constant pressure on ball-handlers, forcing difficult entry passes (see: Kansas’ Perry Ellis) that often result in bigs catching the ball out of scoring position. Marcus Paige is far from turnover prone, but Villanova’s 2-3 half-court zone set could complicate his entry passes. Moreover, Villanova’s guards time their low post double-teams well, limiting easy scoring opportunities in the paint. Given how heavily UNC relies on inside scoring, the time that Villanova’s guards spend playing help defense on Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks will be worth monitoring. The other key factor here will be Daniel Ochefu’s foul situation – his team’s help defense will have to be aggressive to avoid putting the Villanova big man in dangerous spots.
  2. Jay Wright’s big vs. small lineup decision. With the exception of Kansas and Perry Ellis (although, to be fair, Ellis isn’t a true post scorer), Villanova’s NCAA Tournament opponents have been generally perimeter-focused teams. As a result, there has not been much pressure on center Daniel Ochefu to contain low post scoring; instead, Villanova’s defensive focus has been placed on containing penetration and preventing three-point shots. Jay Wright’s lineup decisions were easy ones. But North Carolina’s style of play is unlike anything Villanova has faced this season. With its exceptional frontcourt size and depth, both Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart will face a significant height and rebounding disadvantage at their positions (UNC ranks third nationally in offensive rebounding). So the key question is whether Jay Wright opts to play Ochefu and Darryl Reynolds at the same time to provide some additional interior defense. The tradeoff comes at the offensive end, where spacing will be inhibited and the mismatch that Jenkins provides against one of the North Carolina bigs will be lost.
  3. Villanova’s shooting. It sounds obvious, but the effects are deeper than it looks at face value. Hot shooting doesn’t just give Villanova immediate points; it allows the Wildcats to set the tempo. Made baskets mean that it can either establish its 1-2-2 press or get back on defense and more easily mark defensive assignments. Slowing the pace on the offensive end has provided Villanova with high percentage shots while limiting turnovers, thereby suppressing any transition opportunities and momentum that faster-paced teams rely upon. North Carolina’s offense can certainly operate well in the half-court, but Roy Williams’ teams always look to get out and run, capitalizing on opportunities at a ridiculously high rate (59.5% effective field goal percentage in transition; 50.2% in the half-court). Moreover, while they have gone largely unchallenged against equal-sized teams, the big question mark is how effectively Villanova can score in the paint against North Carolina’s long and athletic front line.
Justin Kundrat (175 Posts)

Villanova grad, patiently waiting another 10 years for season tickets. Follow Justin on twitter @JustinKundrat or email him at

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