Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tuesday Night Villanova-St. John's Preview

Coming off their worst stretches of the season (Nova's only loss and two of SJU's three) is a big weeknight matchup in the Big East. The Cats and the Johnnies make up 66% of the top tier in the conference (with those Seton Hall dicks, for now), and this game will establish who is favored to win the conference at this early stage of the season.

I went on TeamRankings (incredible site, by the way - strong recommend if you think numbers matter) to get some stats, and hopefully we can look a little deeper into this  matchup.

First of all, stats can't tell you some things. Rysheed Jordan (14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists) is back for SJU, which is huge against a guard-heavy team like Nova. The Johnnies lost to Butler without Jordan, but they also lost to Seton Hall with him.

As for those Seton Hall Pirates, they stink. Yeah, they beat both of these teams. Okay. Fine. And I know the initial reaction to this is "Jay you're such a homer, shut up idiot." Fine. Alright. Here's how those Pirates won those games:

  • Against SJU, Seton Hall shot 10/23 from 3 point range. SJU shot just 5/20. 
  • Two of SJU's best players, D'Angelo Harrison and Sir'Dominic Pointer, both faced foul trouble and eventually fouled out. As a team, SJU was called for 25 fouls (between basically 6 guys). It's tough to win when you're in foul trouble. 
  • Against Nova, Seton Hall shot just 2/15 from 3 point range. Villanova, however, only shot 5/24 (and just 31% from the field).
  • Factoring out Darren Hilliard's 4/6 and Daniel Ochefu's 7/9 (they were both solid) and Josh Hart (more on him in a second), the Wildcats field goal shooting looked like this: 1/7 for JayVaughn Pinkston, 0/3 for Dylan Ennis, 1/9 for Archie D'Acono, 1/5 for Kris Jenkins, 1/3 for Phil Booth. I know that these are cats and not dogs, but WOOF. 
  • Josh Hart. His stat line of 9 points, 5 rebounds (including 4 offensive), a steal and 2 blocks doesn't look too bad. His 3/13 field goal shooting also doesn't look terrible considering the rest of the team. If you watched the game, a lot of those shots were wide open. He was 1/6 from 3 point range, and most of them should have gone in. Hart's issue was the crowd. There was a point in the first half where he got tangled up, tried to trip one of Seton Hall's players, and then they showed it on the video board. The crowd let him have it for the rest of the game, and Hart simply wasn't up for the task. He looked like a lost puppy. Tough to blame the loss on him because he contributes in a LOT of other ways (he's one of the best rebound/three point/defense wing men I've watched this year), but you would have liked to see him stand up to the crowd and shove it in their faces. 
  • All of that aside, Villanova lost the game at the charity stripe. The Cats were 20/35 from the free throw line. Excuse me while I violently throw up all over my desk. 

    That was a really long detour for me to tell you that Seton Hall isn't really that good. Now back to the game that matters. 

    Offensive Distribution

    Here are some stats about Villanova's offense:
    • % of points from 3's: 27.4% (189th-highest in the country out of 351 teams)
    • % of points from 2's: 49.9 %(205th)
    • % of points from 1's: 22.8% (95th)
    Corresponding stats for St. John's defense:

    • % of points from 3's: 29.3% (216th-most in the country)
    • % of points from 2's: 52.9% (245th)
    • % of points from 1's: 17.8% (66th)
    Where that leaves us is Villanova is going to be able to score quite a bit from both inside and outside the three point line, but SJU's tendency is to not allow a ton of points from the free throw line. This is advantage Johnnies, because it means they normally won't have guys foul out (like they did against Seton Hall), but also means they will likely limit Villanova to precious few free throw attempts. Wait, that might be a good thing for Nova. We'll see. 

    On the other side, here's how SJU splits on offense:
    • % of points from 3's: 21.3% (312th in the country)
    • % of points from 2's: 57.8% (33rd)
    • % of points from 1's: 20.9% (169th)
    And Villanova's defense:
    • % of points from 3's: 24.8% (55th in the country)
    • % of points from 2's: 57.9% (328th)
    • % of points from 1's: 18.3% (78th)
    This is a matchup of strengths against weaknesses, and it's going to be frustrating on both sides. Villanova allows, for whatever reason, a very slim percentage of points from behind the arc (relatively). SJU doesn't really look to score from there anyway. They do, however, like to pound it inside and drive to the hoop, which Villanova (playing with either a center and a small forward or just a small forward) has obvious difficult stopping. Look for Daniel Ochefu to focus on staying out of foul trouble and for JayVaughn Pinkston and Darryl Reynolds to spend some time with him clogging the lane. The Cats can afford to give up some looks to the conference's worst three point shooting team, because layup after layup would be devastating (and would kill Nova's chances for points in transition). 

    The Boards

    In terms of overall rebounding, Villanova is 152nd in the nation with 35.6 rebounds per game. St. John's is 65th with 38.0 per. But total rebounding is subject to so many factors - most notably pace of the game - that it's a useless old stat. I prefer offensive and defensive percentages:
    • Villanova's offensive rebounding percentage: 33.0% (72nd in the country)
    • Villanova's defensive rebounding percentage: 73.6% (85th)
    And their opponents:
    • Opponent offensive rebounding percentage: 26.4% (85th in the country)
    • Opponent defensive rebounding percentage: 67.0% (72nd)
    For the Jawnies:
    • SJU offensive rebounding percentage: 26.5% (243rd in the country)
    • SJU defensive rebounding percentage: 72.7% (110th)
    And their opponents:
    • Opponent offensive rebounding percentage: 27.3% (110th in the country)
    • Opponent defensive rebounding percentage: 73.5% (243rd)
    Advantage: Cats. Despite their tendency to play with 3, 4, or 5 guards at a time, Nova crashes the boards. Ochefu can soar for a big man, and guys like Hart and Hilliard often outrebound opposing forwards. 

    Individual Matchups

    The biggest one, for me, is Ochefu down low against Chris Obekpa. Chief has been showing off a surprisingly good post game in the past few weeks, and he will be tested (a lot) against the nation's best shot blocker (averaging 3.9 per game for the season and 5.0 in his last four games). 

    It's not just Ochefu that's going to suffer. When Hart, Hilliard, D'Acono, and Ennis (especially Ennis) drive the lane, it creates space on the floor for (insert any name on the team basically) to hit open threes. If they're running into a brick wall early, that's going to hurt Villanova's half court offense. That said, let me throw another stat at you: Villanova shoots 0.442 free throws per field goal attempt, and they make 24.9 free throws per 100 possessions (good for 50th and 33rd best in the country, respectively). It's strength against strength, because SJU doesn't commit a whole lot of fouls - so a lot will depend of the referee crew. 

    What The Fuck Does This All Mean

    To be honest, I don't know. Villanova will play better than they did last game. St. John's will also play better than their past two. If both teams play to the best they possibly can, Villanova will steamroll St. John's. The inside/outside combination on offense (coupled with the depth of guys than can do both) is just too much for St John's 7-man rotation. 

    Bovada currently has the spread at Villanova -4.5 (looking like it's going to move to -5), and has Nova's team points at 68. I'd bet my car and everything inside it on the over, because there is NO way Nova shoots as poorly tonight as they did against Seton Hall (ho hum, they still scored 61 in overtime). 

    The picks: Nova should cover (don't even worry if it moves to -5 or -5.5), and I love their team total over 68 tonight. 

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