Rushed Reactions: #1 Villanova 95, #1 Kansas 79

Posted by rtmsf on April 1st, 2018

RTC will be providing coverage of the NCAA Tournament from start to finish.

Three Key Takeaways.

Villanova Advances to the Title Game for the Second Time in Three Years (USA Today Images)

  1. Three-llanova. It was 9-2 before most people had even started their mid-session hot dog. 14-4 by the first TV timeout. 22-4 seven minutes into the game. And everyone in the building, including Kansas head coach Bill Self, knew it was over. Villanova was simply too good to blow an 18-point lead, even if 80 percent of the game was still to come. At that point in the game, Villanova had already nailed six threes, but the Wildcats were far from done. Over the course of the next 13 minutes, Villanova dropped another seven threes, totaling a Final Four record-tying 13 in the first half alone. The Wildcats did so on 26 attempts (50%), effectively eschewing its patented drive game in favor of a number of long-range heat checks that dropped. Furthermore, Villanova only attempted seven two-point field goals for the half and took zero foul shots. All of this goes to show that Jay Wright‘s team was absolutely scorching, feeling it and playing to their hot hands. It was a first half performance for the ages and Kansas never really had a chance after the opening few minutes. Going into the break down 15 points, the Jayhawks never saw a single-figure deficit again.
  2. Villanova is on the Cusp of Greatness. Win a single National Championship at any school in America and you drink for free in the area for the rest of your life. But the truth is that there have been a number of one-hit wonder championship teams that are generally forgotten beyond their localities. If Villanova cuts down the nets on Monday night in San Antonio, however, Wright’s program will ascend to greatness. Three-year runs that include a trio of 30-win seasons and two banners don’t exactly grow on trees. In fact, only Kentucky from 1996-98 can make that claim in the modern era. For a program that doesn’t pile up all of the elite recruits but rather cultivates and grows the ones it gets, this run is nothing short of astonishing. There is still another game to be played, of course, and Michigan is a worthy and capable opponent, but all signs point to Villanova achieving something that perhaps only Wright and his closest supporters saw coming three years ago.
  3. Kansas Did Its Job For America. Bill Self alluded to this after the game, but given the number of issues that Kansas has faced this season — from losing Billy Preston to running a four-guard set — the Jayhawks have nothing of which to be ashamed. Beating a loaded Duke team in overtime of the Elite Eight is what this team will be remembered for, and even though the Kansas program plays for banners, it will be a very nice memory for the Jayhawks and the rest of America for years to come. We made light of Self having his “least impressive team” ever — which is still hogwash, but it certainly had more weaknesses than most of his teams over the last decade in Lawrence. That said, Kansas will continue to recruit great players; Self will continue to coach ’em up; and Kansas will continue to get to Final Fours. Eventually he’s going to win another one of these tournaments.

Player of the Game. Eric Paschall, Villanova. Take your pick on the Villanova roster for this award, but it’s yours when you drop 24 points in 29 minutes with only one missed shot on the entire evening. Paschall is one of the lesser-known players among the Wildcats’ regulars but he was All-American level tonight, draining a couple of threes for eight points in the first half and effectively ensuring Kansas would not make a run with 16 more points in the second stanza.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Villanova 71, #3 Texas Tech 59

Posted by Matt Patton on March 25th, 2018

RTC will be providing coverage of the NCAA Tournament from start to finish. Matt Patton (@mpatton08) is in Boston for the East Regional this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways.

Donte DiVincenzo ignites the Villanova crowd in the second half of their Elite Eight win (photo credit: AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

  1. Villanova doesn’t have to outshoot its opponents to win. Villanova won this game for two main reasons, and neither is a hallmark of this squad. First, the Wildcats dominated Texas Tech on the glass. They rebounded 37 percent of their own misses (20 offensive boards in all), extending their possessions and shortening the game. While they didn’t get all that many second-chance points, those rebounds forced the Red Raiders to expend more energy on defense with less time to mount a comeback. The second reason Jay Wright‘s team won today was because of their work defending the paint. Villanova had a good two-point defense this year (holding opponents to 49 percent shooting from the field), but their work in Boston this weekend was phenomenal. Wright’s team held Texas Tech to 7-of-24 shooting on layups despite foul trouble for much of the game for big man Omari Spellman. In fact, Texas Tech missed their last 10 layups of the game, covering the last 12 minutes of action (which was also when they were trying to mount an ultimately futile comeback).
  2. Villanova’s ball movement is probably unparalleled in college basketball. The threes didn’t fall for Villanova today, but the Wildcats space the floor better than any other team in college basketball. The whole rotation can shoot, so Jalen Brunson will frequently drive the ball inside as the other four players on the floor spread themselves around the perimeter. If Brunson’s pass to the corner or wing doesn’t find a wide-open shooter, the swing pass does. This exact scenario played out multiple times per game against West Virginia and Texas Tech this weekend. Brunson also doesn’t have to drive the ball to be successful. He posted up and backed down his Texas Tech defender multiple times today — most of the time he was looking for his own shot there, but he also had ample opportunity to pass out if anyone even hinted at helping off their man.
  3. Keenan Evans didn’t provide the spark Texas Tech needed from its best offensive player. Evans, who disclosed after the game that he has been playing for the last month with a broken big toe, wound up shooting 3-of-14 from the field, missing all four of his attempts from three. He was able to get to the line, which is another place the Red Raiders struggled, but when Texas Tech cut it to five points with five minutes left in the game, it seemed like the moment when Evans might step up. It’s hard to say how painful that injury was for him, but you can bet that it affected his explosiveness and balance with the ball throughout the postseason this year.

Player of the Game. Eric Paschall finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds (six on the offensive ends) today, and was really the guy who stymied both of Texas Tech’s best opportunities to come back in the second half. When Brandone Francis hit a three-pointer to cut the deficit to five with six minutes remaining, it was Paschall who blocked Zach Smith’s subsequent layup that would have made it a one-possession game. With four minutes to play and the deficit again five points, it was Paschall who hauled in Brunson’s missed three while getting fouled.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Villanova 87, #16 Radford 61

Posted by Walker Carey on March 16th, 2018

RTC will be providing coverage of the NCAA Tournament from start to finish. Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) is in Pittsburgh this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways.

Villanova Cruised by Radford Today (USA Today Images)

  1. Villanova was simply overpowering. Just like most #1/#16 match-ups, there was a massive discrepancy in talent between Villanova and Radford. Throughout tonight’s game, Villanova was able to get everything it wanted on the offensive end of the court and its athleticism and size on the defensive end were too much for Radford to handle offensively. This was highlighted by the fact that Villanova shot 59.6 percent from the field and 51.9 percent from the three-point line while Radford shot just 33.9 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from the three-point line. All in all, it was abundantly clear why one team is the top seed in the region and is widely projected to get to the Final Four and the other team had to win a game at the First Four just to make it to the main bracket.
  2. Jalen Brunson showcased why he is one of the best players in the country. It is certainly tough to be underrated when you started at point guard for a national champion as a freshman and are the best player on another strong favorite to reach the Final Four. But Brunson does not grab the headlines or make many highlight reel plays, he just puts forth winning performances on a nightly basis. The junior put together another sterling effort in tonight’s victory, finishing the game with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting to go along with four assists. He was clearly the best player on the floor tonight, and that is a trend that figures to continue as Villanova makes its way through the bracket.
  3. This game should just be a footnote in what was a remarkable March for Radford. Radford got smoked tonight — there is no way around that. But while tonight’s result has to sting, Radford’s March should not be defined by this single game. The reason why Radford even had the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament was because freshman guard Carlik Jones hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer to best Liberty in the Big South title game. The reason why Radford had the opportunity to play Villanova was because it used a great second half performance to coast to a 10-point win over LIU-Brooklyn in the First Four. Those moments are what Radford fans should remember when they recall the wonderful March run that they had to get to this spot.

Player of the Game. Jalen Brunson, Villanova. The Wildcats put six players — Brunson, Phil Booth, Omari Spellman, Mikal Bridges, Eric Paschall, and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree — in double figures tonight, but it was the junior point guard that really set the tone. “Coach on the floor” is a tired cliche that is often incorrectly used, but it certainly fits with Brunson. When watching Villanova play, you clearly see how much the Wildcats feed off his energy and leadership. While he may not be the most talented player in the country, he might be the most important player in the country.

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Are Villanova’s Smallest Lineups Its Most Effective?

Posted by Justin Kundrat on January 11th, 2017

Much has already been written about Omari Spellman’s ineligibility ruling at the beginning of the season, leaving Villanova light in the frontcourt with 6’9″ center Darryl Reynolds acting as the lone interior player. The prevailing concern at the time was that Jay Wright‘s team would struggle to both defend in the post and get abused on the glass, but that line of thinking has proven incorrect. Instead, Villanova’s offense has flourished, and the key to unlocking its full potential might just be re-calibrating the lineup to completely embrace small-ball. For all the discussion over the Wildcats’ elite offense last season, it’s hard to believe that this year’s team is almost two points per 100 possessions better. If Villanova finishes the season at this level of offensive efficiency, its 1.232 points per possession would rank as the fourth-highest of any college basketball team in the last five years. More remarkably, though, is what happens Wright removes Reynolds from the lineup. Take a close look a the table below.

The table shows a Wildcats’ lineup that includes Jalen BrunsonJosh HartKris Jenkins, Eric Paschall and either of Donte DiVicenzo or Mikal Bridges — in other words, a lineup that features no player taller than the 6’7″ Paschall, who was a wing at Fordham and has deftly assumed the role of an undersized center at Villanova. In this even smaller-ball lineup, offensive efficiency spikes further (1.28 PPP) and, given that all five players are comfortable handling the ball, turnovers correspondingly drop (-4.3%). Paschall is a better passer and more viable scoring threat than Reynolds (averaging 15.9 PPG at Fordham) with a demonstrated ability to hit perimeter shots. Moreover, he is dangerous in pick-and-roll situations and Wright can also choose to park him on the three-point line if he wants to open up the lane.

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on December 23rd, 2014

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

Freshmen Who Caught Our Attention

This preseason Rookie of the Year, Fordham’s Eric Paschall, has some competition. The postseason award may still be his to lose, but if these five freshmen keep the pace they set in this out of conference through the conference schedule, Paschall may be looking over his shoulder come March. In any event, the conference’s future is in very good hands.

  • Payton Aldridge (Davidson) — It appears just about everything about Davidson was underestimated in the season previews, including this 6’7″ 205 pound forward out of Leavittsburg, Ohio. Aldridge has earned two Rookie of the Week nods plus a pair of Honorable Mentions. Aldridge has earned starts in all of Davidson’s games, averages 25.5 minutes, 12.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game for the Wildcats. Combined with senior wing Tyler Kalinoski (offensive rating 125.8) and sophomore point guard Jack Gibbs (offensive rating 132.5), Aldridge gives Coach Bob McKillop a very efficient (offensive rating 124.4) third option. Aldridge has converted 46% of his three point attempts, giving Davidson the kind of offense that stretches defenses.

    Eric Paschall is still the favorite, but other freshmen have really impressed as well. (AP)

    Eric Paschall is still the favorite, but other freshmen have really impressed as well. (AP)

  • Oskar Michelsen (Davidson) — Another overlooked gem in Davidson’s entering class, Michelsen, at 6’9″ 210 pounds, has started with Aldridge and Kalinoski to give Davidson three scoring forwards. Michelsen averages 20.2 minutes in a front court rotation that includes junior Jake Belford and fellow freshman Nathan Ekwu. Michelsen’s specialty is three pointers. 75% of the freshman’s field goal attempts have been three pointers, a point he made with authority with an 18 point outburst on 6-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc in his debut against Division 3 Catholic University. He has cooled off to a 51% three point conversion rate. Michelsen has earned two conference Honorable Mentions.

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on December 16th, 2014

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

Looking Back

While games with the highest-ranked six conferences accounted for only 35 percent of last week’s conference schedule, they accounted for six of the eight losses the Atlantic 10 recorded. George Washington‘s win over DePaul represented the lone win the league has recorded this season against the Big East, but Rhode Island‘s E.C. Matthews, despite scoring 27 points, could not notch another one over intrastate rival Providence. Fordham took the other loss to a Big East team last week, as the Rams fell to crosstown rival St. John’s. The Big Ten’s Penn State beat two A-10 teams this past week, squeaking by Duquesne on Wednesday before turning around to beat George Washington over the weekend. Duquesne and Saint Louis lost troubling games to teams that play among the lowest-ranked conferences; Duquesne was upset by local rival Robert Morris of the NEC while the Billikens dropped a decision to the Summit Conference’s South Dakota State. Those kinds of losses drag down the conference-wide RPI, something to watch as the season carries on.

Despite a big game for E.C. Matthews, the Rams came up just a little short against their in-state rival. (AP)

Despite a big game for E.C. Matthews, the Rams came up just a little short against their intrastate rival. (AP)

Three Games to Catch This Week

  • VCU vs Belmont (Tuesday 12/16 7:00 PM ET) — This should be a bear of a week for the Rams, as they face giant-killing Belmont on Tuesday and Cincinnati on Saturday. Tuesday should be an easier game, given VCU’s notable home court advantage and Belmont’s two-game losing streak. Both teams press and rely on turnovers to fuel their offense, and given that fact, both also have poor field goal defense. VCU has trouble defending the three-point line while Belmont converts efficiently from there. Hitting that three on a delayed break is the key stat for determining Belmont’s prospects.

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