Villanova’s Offense Already Looks Fantastic… Again

Posted by Michael Austin on November 15th, 2016

En route to the National Championship last season, Villanova went 13-0 in games in which the Wildcats shot fewer than 20 three-point field goal attempts. In fact, in four of the five times Villanova lost a game last season, they shot more than 25 three-pointers (going 13-4 in those games).  Yes, an undersized team playing a 4-Out Offense with a huge focus on guard play actually played its best ball when it limited its overall number of long-range shots.

Villanova Scores on Shots of the Non-Three Point Variety? Who Knew? (USA Today Images)

Villanova Scores on Shots of the Non-Three Point Variety? Who Knew? (USA Today Images)

A deeper dive into Villanova’s three-point offense last season reveals that Jay Wright’s squad underwent a dramatic shift in philosophy when Big East play began — a shift that continued all the way through six games of the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats won 14 of their first 15 conference games by shooting no more than 25 three-pointers only twice during that run (31 in a loss at Providence and 29 in a win against Creighton). At some point, it seemed to click that simply firing three-pointers isn’t the formula for success; rather, creating more-efficient, high-percentage, uncontested perimeter shots is where Wright wanted his team. The Wildcats finished the season eighth in the nation in effective field goal percentage (eFG%) at a very healthy 56.1 percent. This focus on good shot-taking (and making) translated into a championship run. Look at Villanova’s total number of three-point attempts in its six NCAA Tournament victories: 28 (vs. UNC-Asheville), 10 (Iowa), 15 (Miami), 18 (Kansas), 18 (Oklahoma) and 14 (North Carolina), for an average of 17.2 attempts per game.

It appears Wright’s team — which returns a lot of seasoned experience this season in the form of Kris Jenkins, Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart — has already figured out in November what it took last year’s team until January to understand. Take fewer three-point shots and make sure the ones you do take are open. In its first major test of the season at Purdue on Monday night, the Wildcats took 17 three-pointers and knocked down seven of them. Let’s dig into a specific example of where it was clear the Wildcats have completely bought into Wright’s offensive philosophy.

Villanova set the tone early by creating three wide-open long-range looks in the first 90 seconds of the game. Jenkins missed the first but watch how the next two shots (both makes) collapse Purdue’s defense. Brunson grabs a defensive rebound and beats most of the Boilermakers in transition off the dribble. Before Purdue has an opportunity to set, Brunson has already gotten both feet into the paint, drawing attention from the two defenders in front of him as well as the two trailers. Phil Booth quietly settles into an open shooting window on the right wing. When he receives the ball, Booth isn’t challenged and nails the wide-open shot.


Just 30 seconds later, Jenkins puts the ball on the floor and attacks the left side of the lane. Instead of trying to navigate a clogged baseline, he uses the dribble to find an open area halfway up the lane. All the defensive focus is on the ball-handler, which leaves his buddy Hart wide open and alone on the right wing for the shot.


If Villanova sticks to this script of using patience and opportunity in taking its three-point shots for the entire season, the Wildcats may actually be in position to improve upon last year’s 35-5 record and are certain to be part of the national conversation throughout the entire season.

Michael Austin (1 Posts)

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