Can Villanova Shake Its Doubters?

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on January 30th, 2014

On Monday night, Villanova came to the Verizon Center ready to play Georgetown. The Wildcats were ranked 4th in the latest AP Poll and carried one of the most impressive resumes in the country — Jay Wright’s team is 4th in RPI, has played the 15th most difficult schedule, and are 10-2 against the RPI top 100 with wins over Kansas and Iowa. Despite all this, Villanova is usually mentioned with a caveat whenever the issue of its ranking comes up; while they are certainly deserving of it given the sterling resume, most pundits do not believe the Wildcats are one of the few best teams in the nation. After a drubbing from Creighton and an escape from subpar Marquette, Villanova had an opportunity to take advantage of the hobbled and sinking Hoyas to show the doubters that they’re for real and to boost their own confidence. Instead, the Wildcats were involved in a back-and-forth game where their offense never seemed to click but ultimately doing just enough to eke out a 65-60 win. So which is the real Villanova? Is it the elite team Villanova appears to portray on paper, or the team the media is waiting to fall back to earth? I looked into the numbers to get a better handle on this question.

Jayvaughn Pinkston (Credit AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Jayvaughn Pinkston  is the biggest offensive weapon in the paint for Villanova. (Credit AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

According to KenPom, the Wildcats have an adjusted offensive efficiency of 118.0 points per 100 possessions (9th in the nation) and an adjusted defensive efficiency of 95.0 points per 100 possessions (26th). Villanova has a great inside-outside game, switching between Jayvaughn Pinkston to do work on the blocks, and a strong perimeter corps where James Bell, Darrun Hilliard and Ryan Arcidiacono can launch it from deep. Forty-five percent of Villanova’s shots come from the three-point line (where the Wildcats are shooting 34.8 percent) and thirty-five percent of their shots are coming at the rim (where they are 63.1 percent from the field). Jay Wright also has them playing excellent man-to-man defense – working in concert to make the correct switches and protecting the weak side. So, what’s the problem? What may be giving writers and talking heads some hesitation is their complete lack of size in the frontcourt and the absence of a premier player who can get buckets down the stretch.

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After Toppling Kansas, Villanova Beginning To Look The Part Of Big East Title Contender Again

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 30th, 2013

It’s not too difficult to conjure up memories of recent Villanova glory days. Just three and a half years ago, Jay Wright had his Wildcats heading to the NCAA Tournament as a #2 seed, his program fresh off a Final Four appearance the year before. The Cats had won 12 NCAA Tournament games in the five years prior, and the 2010 team was both deep and young: Of the 11 Wildcats to average eight minutes a game that year, only two were seniors. The future was bright. And then Robert Morris happened. Villanova survived the #15 seed Colonials on that fateful March day (by the thinnest of margins: 73-70 in OT), but Jay Wright is still seeking his next Tournament victory. Saint Mary’s dispatched the Wildcats from the Dance two days later, and the three years since have witnessed a program mired in mediocrity. After a detour to the NIT in 2012, last year’s plucky group managed navigate its way back to the Tournament, but nobody was mistaking those Wildcats for the talent-laden teams of the early Wright era. A team built upon a similar foundation was expected this season – a gritty, defensive minded group that would be capable of stealing wins on their homecourt. All those things may yet be true, but after a convincing win over Kansas on Friday, it may be time to add one more descriptor to the 2013-14 Villanova Wildcats – Big East title contenders.

James Bell, JayVaughn Pinkston, And The Rest Of The Wildcats Gave Kansas Fits On Friday Night -- Will Iowa Be Subject To The Same Torture Tonight?    (Photo Credit: USA Today Sports)

James Bell, JayVaughn Pinkston, And The Rest Of The Wildcats Gave Kansas Fits On Friday Night — Will Iowa Be Subject To The Same Torture This Evening? (Photo Credit: USA Today Sports)

Last year’s Villanova’s team scored more than its fair share of big wins. They knocked off four of the Big East’s five best teams (all of whom were ranked in the top 20 at the time of defeat), but each of those victories came on the Wildcats’ home floor. Furthermore, when you remove that quartet of signature victories, Villanova went just 2-12 against teams that finished in in the top 75 of the Pomeroy Ratings. Throw in a charity stripe festival or two at the Wachovia Center – a +34 free throw differential assisted in the Nova upset of then #5 Georgetown – and you can see why last year’s team never quite established themselves as an upper-echelon Big East club.

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First Impressions From the Big East Openers

Posted by Todd Keryc on November 12th, 2013

College basketball opened play over the weekend and we got our first glimpse at the 10 Big East teams this season. Now that we’ve seen each team in action, here are some initial takeaways from a few of them.


Bryce Cotton (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

Bryce Cotton (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

Bryce Cotton led all Big East players in scoring last year and he will have an opportunity to repeat the feat this season. But if Providence wants to take the next step into the NCAA Tournament, it will need to find some consistent support for him. In the Friars’ Friday night win against Boston College, Cotton was his usual self, deftly finding his way into the paint and finishing over much bigger defenders, but he struggled from the perimeter. Last year he averaged more than eight three-point attempts per game but limited himself to just four against the Eagles. His ratio of 3FGA to FTA will be a telling statistic this season in his personal development. However, the well-dressed Ed Cooley needs to find his star some help. With Kris Dunn sidelined by a shoulder injury and two freshman wings (Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock) suspended, it was again the Cotton show.  If the Friars want to improve upon their .500 finish in conference play last season, they will need those players back to create a depth that was lacking in their season-opening win.


Georgetown opened its season practically across the world in South Korea against Oregon and it was UCLA transfer Josh Smith who stole the show in a loss. The big man showed off an array of post moves and had his way in the paint against the smaller Ducks. Georgetown was ice cold from deep and still had chances late against a ranked team, albeit one missing a couple of key players. Assuming the Hoyas shoot better in future big games (and realistically, they could not shoot much worse), Josh Smith’s presence will make an enormous difference and put Georgetown in contention for a Big East title.

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Villanova: The Season Is Lost, But Hope Is On The Horizon

Posted by mlemaire on February 27th, 2012

Coaches often explain their team’s struggles by saying his group is “still learning to play together” all the time. And Villanova coach Jay Wright used the team’s furious comeback win over lowly Providence on February 7 as a chance to dust off the age-old coaching platitude once more. The only problem is that the season is almost over proving the Wildcats have had a more gradual learning curve than most.

Since that win over the Friars, the Wildcats have lost all four games they have played including games against Notre Dame and Connecticut in which they had a 20-point and 18-point lead respectively. Just three seasons removed from a Final Four appearance, the Wildcats now sit at 4-12 in the conference and have almost no shot at playing any postseason basketball, let alone games in the NCAA Tournament.

After Turning Villanova Into An Elite Program, Things Have Not Gone Well For Jay Wright This Season

Needless to say it has been a trying season for Wright, his team, and Wildcat fans who had grown accustomed to annual NCAA Tournament berths and the occasional Elite Eight appearance. The Wildcats were expected to struggle when they lost Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, and Antonio Pena off last year’s squad, but Wright seemed to have amassed enough talent to make sure the decline wouldn’t be all that steep. Unfortunately, the Wildcats would miss that trio more than anyone could have imagined.

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Big East Morning Five: 02.14.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on February 14th, 2012

  1. A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT FROM RTC BIG EAST:  This is not a test. If you have any designs on watching your favorite team take part in their upcoming conference tournament, not to mention the NCAA tournament next month, and have yet to get a Valentine’s Day gift for your significant other, what are you waiting for dude? Are you crazy? Not to worry. This important RTC announcement should post around 8:00 am eastern, which gives you plenty of time to run to your local florist, jewelry store, or car dealership (depending on how badly you want to watch “March Madness” with your buddies) and take care of business. You are welcome.
  2. What a season Jack Cooley is having for Notre Dame. He has been a model of consistency as evidenced by his four selections to the Big East Honor Roll this season but this past week Cooley ascended from steady to spectacular, averaging 21.5 points and 13.0 rebounds in two big wins for the surging and surprising Fighting Irish to earn him Big East Player of the Week honors. Villanova forward JayVaughn Pinkston earned Rookie of the Week accolades by virtue of going ham on Providence. Pinkston posted career-highs in points with 28 and rebounds with 14 to lead his team back from a 19 point second-half deficit to overtake the Friars. Marquette’s Jae Crowder stuffed the stat sheet in typical fashion to the tune of 18.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 3.0 steals and earned a spot on the Big East Honor Roll. Rounding out the Honor Roll are Syracuse’s Kris Joseph who went for 29 in a big win over Georgetown; Georgetown’s Otto Porter who averaged 12.5 points and 10.5 rebounds; South Florida’s Hugh Robertson who helped the Bulls to two wins by averaging 12.0 points and 3.5 rebounds; and Seton Hall catalyst Jordan Theodore who got the Pirates back on track by averaging 19.5 points and 6.0 assists in two much-needed wins.
  3. I did not watch the Grammy’s the other night but you can bet Mike Brey and his Notre Dame squad are singing a tune and dancing a jig after seeing their name in the rankings. Yes, the Fighting Irish (17-8. 9-3) are your #23 ranked team and let’s just shut down Big East Coach of the Year voting now and give it to Brey. No matter what happens the rest of the way, Brey has defied odds and expectations once again, and deserves all the credit in the world. Notre Dame’s inclusion gives the Big East five ranked teams now as Syracuse (24-1, 13-1) held firm at #2 while Georgetown (19-5, 9-4) went 1-1 but benefited from other upsets and jumped up two notches anyway to #10. Marquette (21-5, 10-3) vaulted a half-dozen spots to #12 after taking out DePaul and Cincinnati. Finally, surging Louisville (20-6, 8-5) popped up five to #19 on the heels of their fifth and sixth straight wins before dropping a heartbreaker to Syracuse last night.
  4. Things are not going so well in Storrs these days. Connecticut is under .500 in conference play (5-7) after dropping two in a row and six of seven. They are facing an NCAA tournament ban next year due to Academic Performance Rating issues that could also bring headwinds for years to come. Further, and perhaps most importantly, the Huskies have been without head coach Jim Calhoun for three games with spinal stenosis and it does not appear he will be back for Wednesday’s game at home versus DePaul.  The Hartford Courant reported yesterday that Calhoun is still in “significant pain” according to those who have visited him recently. Calhoun will continue to seek medical advice and may ultimately opt for surgery that could keep him out for the rest of the season. Long time assistant George Blaney has assumed the head coaching duties in Calhoun’s absence.
  5. Cincinnati came into this season with perhaps the highest expectations and biggest target on its back (save for Connecticut perhaps) of any Big East team. The Bearcats returned their top four scorers from last year’s 26-9 team that reached the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years, and notched a second round win while they were at it. However it is one thing to get up near the top of the Big East, and a whole other thing to stay there. This has been an up-and-down year to say the least for Cincinnati (17-8, 7-5), but the Bearcats remain in position to grab an NCAA tournament bid if they can finish the season strong. In order to get there head coach Mick Cronin thinks it is time for his team to realize they are now the hunted and no longer the hunters. “Last year, people didn’t respect our team, even though we really were good,” Cronin said. “I watch the way other teams prepare for us. You can tell when other teams think they have to play really well to beat us.” Given that the Bearcats are no longer under the radar, Cronin needs his team to adjust their preparation accordingly because opponents view them differently now. “I don’t think our guys understand that,“ Cronin said. “It’s a hump that we have to get over, and it’s nipped us. Our weakness is we try to be too cool.” Cincinnati hosts Providence on Wednesday.
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