Monday, August 15, 2016

#CatsInSpain -- 5 Takeaways

The Seniors Will Lead (Along with Jalen Brunson)

I think this trip gives Josh (Hart) and Kris (Jenkins) to really get a sense of what it means to be a senior captain in this program.
-- Jay Wright, 8/1/2016

The Villanova coach got his wish as Hart definitely emerged as the go-to guy on the tour. Hart was the leading scorer in each of the three Wildcat wins, and as his individual stats suggest, the offense looked to him for buckets when needed. The table below charts his production in each of the three games:

Hart% MinPoss %Off RatingPPWSeFG%OR%TO%A RateFT RateDR%
Game #167.526.0108.51.3063.612.314.316.427.316.5
Game #285.034.8110.21.3769.417.417.423.522.230.4
Game #365.034.1111.51.4765.411.021.28.946.236.4

The second game was the most competitive (87-80 Villanova) and Hart's minutes and possession rates increased accordingly. "Josh was dominant, by far the best player on the floor today...when we needed a bucket, we went to him every time and he came through." stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright after the game. The numbers back up what the coach's eyes saw -- a 35% possession rate combined with a shot rate of 33.4% and an assist rate of 23.5% -- the wing powered the offense either by taking the shot or passing to the open player. Hart's 27 points represented 31% of Villanova's points that Sunday. Hart's possession rate in all three games was higher than should be expected in regular season play (Villanova is in trouble if Hart is reponsible for more than 24-25% of the teams' possessions) that he could assume that large a role and do it without loss of efficiency (note his Off Ratings in games #2 and #3) is especially promising for the season as they suggest he can assume an even larger role in the offense (his possession rate, per Pomeroy, was 23.6 with an offensive rating of 117.7 -- #5 on Pomeroy's list of POYs) without loss of efficiency. The Big East has at least five legitimate candidates for Player of the Year, but Hart will most likely be named the favorite on Media Day next October.

2. The #5 is Unresolved.
This question surrounding the center position took two more twists on the eve of the trip as Villanova revealed that Omari Spellman had eligibility questions (unrelated to academic achievement) even as they announced that Darryl Reynolds would not make the trip due to a late injury incurred in practice. Reynolds should be healed before Fall Practice, but Spellman's eligibility questions may bleed into the season. For the tour Wright had the opportunity to take a long look at freshman Dylan Painter, a 6'9" 215 pound center out of Hershey Pennsylvania. The results were mixed:

Painter% MinPoss %Off RatingPPWSeFG%OR%TO%A RateFT RateDR%
Game #165.021.5114.61.4266.717.117.95.722.28.5
Game #245.09.1120.01.0450.
Game #365.010.866.70.8040.05.516.

Painter struggled with early foul trouble in game #2, but the video also suggests he struggled versus more experienced opponents. Note his defensive rebounding numbers in games #1 and #3 were well below an expected rebounding rate for Division 1 centers and his possession rate imploded versus the more competitive teams in games #2 and #3. If the video of game #2 is a good indication, Painter also struggles with the switching intricacies of Villanova's man-to-man defense (hardly surprising given that even the veterans miss assignments early in the season). This is not a knock on Painter. He is a freshman as the numbers suggest and will improve with conditioning and experience.

If Painter drew most of the minutes during the tour, Eric Paschall was the designated starter at the #5 for each of the three games. Fans finally saw the 6'7" 240 pound transfer out of Fordham perform under (exhibition) game conditions, even if the (normally) stretch #4 was playing up a position:

Paschall% MinPoss %Off RatingPPWSeFG%OR%TO%A RateFT RateDR%
Game #152.519.4105.31.2157.
Game #
Game #355.032.0112.31.3868.26.513.40.072.728.7

Like Painter, Paschall struggled with his low post counterparts in game #2, but managed better rebounding rates even as his possession rate dropped. Through all three games Paschall shot 15-26 from the field, but only 1-10 from beyond the arc (the lone conversion came in game #3). He appears to be a more mobile version of JayVaughn Pinkston, a starter who also rotated between #4 and #5 but graduated in 2015 along with Darrun Hilliard. In a post game #2 column NBC's Rob Dauster opined about a Villanova version of Golden State's Death Lineup of Brunson, Phil Booth, Hart, Mykal Bridges and Kris Jenkins. but I think if Paschall can find the range, he would fit in at the #5 better than either Jenkins or Bridges. He has three more months to work on it. As for a more proto-typical low post rotation, the Wildcats have about 92 days, to idenfiy and develop it, or find a reasonable alternative.

3. Jay Wright Loves to Play Two Ball Handling Guards Together
And he will have that option again this season with Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth. Each started and alternated the ball handling responsibilities in each of the three exhibition games. Brunson was on the floor consistently for at least 75% of the available time (Burson averaged 31 minutes per game), Booth was plagued by turnovers and poor shooting in game #2 and poor shooting in game #3. The junior guard registered assist rates of 30%, 25% and 23.3% in each of the games, suggesting that when he looks for teammates he can find them.

4. Mykal Bridges is the Early Favorite for Big East Sixth Man
Who will start continues to be one of the favorite off season pasttimes of the Nova Nation, and Mikal Bridges has a loyal contingent who have slotted him at the #3 or #4 (with Hart and/or Jenkins playing down). Bridges will be first off the bench however, without a doubt. On a roster with the (publicly anyway) avowed philosophy of "positionless basketball", Bridges, a natural #3, is the only player who can legitimately play up or down two positions from his spot. Seeing him dribble versus pressure would make me nervous as would seeing him defend against a legitimate 260 pound 6'11" center, but Bridges can cover either for shot stretches. And that makes him far more valuable as a "first in" substitute than a starter. Villanova has had success with versitile sophomore sixth men as Josh Hart and Phil Booth can attest. Bridges can be that and more, as Wright will have some flexibility when deciding who to take out. Bridges, when he subs in, will force the opposing coach to reassess the match ups and adjust. Advantage Villanova.

5. Turnovers...Life Without Arch
Villanova's turnover rate in 2015-16 was 16.1%, due in no small measure to senior point guard Ryan Arcideacono's 14.1% turnover rate, coupled with equally impressive TO rates of 13.3% and 12.7% from Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins repsectively. Arch is gone to the NBA, Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth will be tasked with insuring that continues this season. Villanova's evolution to a perimeter-oriented offense means there will be fewer second chance opportunities (offensive rebounds) and oppertunities for points at the free throw line (for the four factors followers that means a lower free throw rate), which places a greater emphasis on lower turnover rates as well. The Wildcats will have to insure that the maximum possible possessions end with a field goal (or free throw) attempt.

Keeping in mind this was a three game exhibition tour, the turnover rates logged (see table below) suggest there is room for improvement:
Game #12024.923.814.313
Game #
Game #327.152.442.221.232

The 'Cats no doubt left Spain with three wins, a good many fond memories and several notebooks of areas for improvement that will, no doubt be areas of emphasis when working in small groups and later in team practices. The team will not start where they left off from last spring. They will be another work in progress this season.

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