If you want to feel good about your team after a blowout, Villanova is the perfect case study: they spend a week in Hawaii and get embarrassed by Oklahoma, but then come home and destroy La Salle. The game plan for the Wildcats very much set the tone early. The fast pace of the opening quarter kept the Explorers in check and Villanova in a rhythm.
This high-tempo resulted in quick, decisive decisions made by the offenses for both teams, which is also why the score was tight early on. Villanova, using the extra pass, got tons of open looks from beyond the ark and was able to penetrate from the lane.
What I noticed in the Oklahoma matchup that worked really well was letting Daniel Ochefu work the paint with the ball more. He was able to drive from the baseline on Ryan Spangler and elevate for dunks and hard lay-ins. Ochefu got the chance to do this again against La Salle, taking a pass from the high post and euro-stepping to the basket, resulting in points. It isn’t what we typically see out of the big man, but it clearly shows that his mobility has increased and that he needs to be used to the team’s advantage.
Stopping the nation’s third ranked scorer usually helps a team out too and that’s how ‘Nova approached La Salle on defense. They only allowed Jordan Price get 16 points on the night as the Wildcats swarmed the big guard. Jalen Brunson was extremely active on the defensive side for the team, diving for loose balls, and forcing pressure on the passing lanes in the half court. Just by examining the sample size of this season, Brunson’s evolution into a primetime player over the next few seasons is going to be fun to watch.
Another player who is definitely primetime for the Wildcats is Josh Hart. The Maryland native quietly racked up buckets in this game, leading both teams with 18 points. Hart’s minimal press after his performance speaks to a higher point on Villanova’s overall team ability. The game was won on the execution of fundamental basketball and Villanova arguably does it better than anyone else in the country. La Salle had no answer for three ball threat that ‘Nova imposed but without the extra passes around the key that set up those shots from deep, those looks would be nothing more than a beaten-down statistic. Often times coaches will say “it’s not about if you got the bucket or not, but rather how you got the bucket” and I think that points to the play of this Villanova team, who work hard to get those easy buckets.
I won’t lie; it felt good seeing ‘Nova dominate like they should, but a more grave challenge awaits in Charlottesville, so let’s hope the Cats are ready. Villanova tips off with the 10th ranked Cavaliers at noon on Saturday, and be sure that coach Wright is going to be focused on execution.
Photo: USA Today Images
-(1) Villanova defeats (3) Michigan in the National Championship