If the Nova blogshere was a bit more sedate about Saturday's loss to Notre Dame, the fans (and message boards) were not. Criticism of the staff this season has been occasional and muted for the most part. But features of the team's play, to date topics of discussion (occasionally heated to be sure) exploded with a vengence over the weekend and into the early part of the week. During his Tuesday evening radio broadcast from a local eatery, Coach Jay Wright joked that his entire staff had come out as protection. The consecutive losses have clearly put a strain on many inside and outside the program. Post game entries/analysis, such as "'Nova Extends Slide..." from the Let's Go Nova Blog and "Once Again We Lose" from the I Bleed Blue and White Blog (both well written), articulate fan concerns even as they convey the dismay felt by many in the 'Nova Nation. The half-by-half breakdown shows a few recurring trends:
The pace picked up between the first and second halves. Notre Dame tends to play at a higher pace (as does Villanova), so this was not necessarily a good sign. A few of the additional possessions were picked up (no doubt) by late game fouling to stop the clock and force a change of possession. The half time adjustments did result in rather dramatic gains in Villanova's Offensive Rating (Rating) and field goal efficiency (eFG). The decline (albeit modest) in Notre Dame's eFG% suggest the 'Cats were doing a better job in defending the shot. So did the 'Cats really play better defense? The answer would seem to be a qualified yes. Defensive rebounding improved (Opponent's OReb% declined half-over-half...). But VU's overall Defensive Rating (Rating) was worse in the second half than the first, possibly because the Irish took a little better care of the ball (decline in the turnover rate -- TORate) and because (like Rutgers during the week...) Villanova put Notre Dame on the line. While not as severe as Rutgers, Notre Dame still took almost as many free throws (26) as field goal attempts (27). Made free throws made up 30% of Notre Dame's final score, making this game the second highest in the Big East season for free throws as a percentage of the final score (Cincinnati was the highest at 38%). The poor first half on both sides of the ball, as evidenced by the low eFG% and the high TORate on offense in combination with the high eFG% and OR% on defense indicate Villanova dug another hole early in the game that half time adjustments could not overcome. Indeed despite scoring 51 points in the second half Villanova could not take back any of the 10 point lead they handed NDU in the first half.
Odds and ends...
1. Antonio Pena has average 10.8 points and 7.5 rebounds over his last four games (all starts). This includes the horrific shutout at Rutgers. Getting a bit less than 20% of the possessions (about the same for shots), he has scored at about 59.3% rate (eFG%) with a PPWS of 1.26. He has taken about 40% of the available minutes at his front court position.
2. Dwayne Anderson's average playing time in the Big East season has nearly doubled (14.9 mpg) over his OOC playing time (7.8 mpg). While his average scoring has improved modestly (3.6 over 3.0), his rebounding has doubled (3.9 over 1.6).
3. Andy Ott, a redshirt freshman frontcourt player is transferring according to an announcement published on Villanova's official athletics website. The announcement was posted just before the Notre Dame game Saturday. Best of luck to Andy at his next stop.
4. Casiem Drummond has been unofficially cleared to participate in team practices. He has been sidelined for about a month with a stress fracture. The return to practice does not signify Drum is ready to play again, but rather that the staff would like to see if he can practice without pain. No final decision on whether he will redshirt this season. After sitting for 3-4 weeks Cas appeared briefly in the second DePaul game, but reported pain and was pulled quickly.