Saturday, August 6, 2016

#CatsInSpain: Day 2, Exhibition 1

A Very Brief Recap
The Villanova Wildcats defeated a Spanish Select team 89-49 in the first of three exhibition games they will play on their eight day tour of Spain. The game, played in the Palau Municipal d’Esport Badalona, home court for the Divina Seguros Joventut of the ACB League in Badalona, drew an exhibition-sized crowd as Villanova, playing the first game since winning the NCAA National Championship last April, outscored and out rebounded (49 to 29) a team composed of players drawn from teams in Spain's ACB League, their top tier professional league. The ACB is ranked in the top three leagues in Europe. Josh Hart paced the Wildcats with a 16 point performance that included 5-11 shooting (2-5 from beyond the arc) and 3-4 from the free throw line. Hart also collected seven rebounds and dished three dimes while pacing Villanova to their 40 point win. Hart was one of four Villanova players to score double digit points. Rising sophomore Jalen Brunson scored 15 points in 30 minutes of play and led the team with five assists, freshman Dylan Painter added 14 points on 6-9 shooting and rising sophomore Mikal Bridges chipped in 12 points in 24 minutes while gathering four rebounds, three steals and two assists. The Wildcats led 56-26 at half-time. After opening the game 0-2 to the Spaniards Villanova went on a 9-0 run to take a lead that they never relinquished.

The starting lineup included three 2015-16 starters, Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins, from the championship game and two new starters, rising junior Phil Booth, Villanova's sixth man in 2015-16 and red shirt sophomore Eric Paschall, a Fordham transfer who joined the Wildcats at the end of the 2015 season. Paschall played the center position in place of rising senior Darryl Reynolds who sustained a tailbone injury days before the team departed and did not make the trip. The Wildcats were also without heralded freshman Omari Spellman who the NCAA has yet to clear for play. Coach Jay Wright considers this an excellent opportunity to see what his three other newest front court players, Paschall, Painter and red shirt freshman Tim Delaney, can do in the position. The triumph was not without a price as rising sophomore Donte DiVencenzo sprained his ankle in the third quarter and was forced to leave the game. It is not clear whether DiVencenzo will appear in the other two exhibition games.

A Closer Look at the Game
Working from an incomplete box score posted on Villanova's website that showed individual minutes played, shooting, rebounding and assists for each of the 11 Wildcat players who drew some playing time (but lacks turnovers, steals, fouls and blocks), I can work out several shot efficiency statistics, but cannot estimate the number of possessions. The box is located here for those who wish to see the partial detailed statistics. The shot efficiency, rebounding and assist rate statistics:

Player%MineFG%PPWSAst%FT RateOR%DR%
Jalen Brunson75.077.81.5923.811.10.07.4
Kris Jenkins55.026.90.6011.
Josh Hart67.563.61.3016.427.312.316.5
Eric Paschall52.557.
Phil Booth45.075.01.5030.
Donte DiVencenzio35.025.00.4810.48.323.831.7
Tom Leibig10.
Mikal Bridges60.071.41.5212.
Tim Delaney27.50.00.0010.
Denny Grace7.
Dylan Painter65.066.71.425.722.217.18.5

Defensive rebounding rates of 55.6 and 74.1 look great, but realize that Tom Leibig and Denny Grace, two of Villanova's newest walk-ons, gathered two rebounds apiece during their respective four and three minute runs. It does not necessarily follow that Leibig would have gathered 20 rebounds had he played the entire game. With "rates" stats that exclude time played, expect distortions at the lower margins. As for detailed explanations for the stats, look here (Ken Pomeroy's website). The one that should be explained here is PPWS, which stands for Points Per Weighted Shot. This is a variation on the True Shot stat developed for NBA players by Kevin Pelton, except that the last step (dividing the anticipated points by two, which converts the stat to a one number, percentage expression, that includes field goals and free throws). PPWS answers the question "How many points were scored each time the player took a field goal attempt?" while True Shot answers "What are the chances a shot will be completed if the field goal attempt is taken?". I prefer PPWS as it gives me the answer "in points" rather than "completion rate". Lacking the number of turnovers committed by each team, I cannot calculate the number of possessions for each team. Given all of the other inputs, I have an estimate (that I know is too low) of 62 possessions for Villanova. Since turnovers "add" possessions, I know that estimate is too low. Most exhibition games come in with a (wide) range of 73-85 possessions, which suggests that the Wildcats committed 10-20 turnovers.

A few observations:
1. Eric Paschall started at the #5, but Dylan Painter drew most of the minutes (26) at the position. The staff must have liked what they saw. Given Spellman's status, it is probably prudent to get the freshman as many minutes as possible in Spain and hope -- worst case -- he and Darryl Reynolds will develop into a serviceable rotation (with assistance from Paschall, etc.).
2. Brunson, Hart, Painter and Bridges (in that order) drew the most minutes. While not an expectation for games going forward, I suspect we will see Brunson and Hart, along with Bridges and Booth emerge as the nucleus this season.
3. The scoring was balanced with seven players (Hart, Brunson, Painter, Bridges, Booth, Paschall and Jenkins) scoring between 16 and eight points apiece, but the shooting efficiency was not. Brunson, Booth and Bridges were the most efficient scorers, followed by Painter, Hart and Paschall. Jenkins has work to do.
4. Note that Hart and Bridges drew the highest FT Rates -- they took contact while scoring, which suggests they went to the bucket to complete plays. Those two are not the most durable players on the squad. I would feel better had Jenkins, Painter and Paschall mixed it up more.
5. The squad had an offensive rebounding rate of 47.2% (the 'Cats gathered 17 of the 36 missed field goal attempts under their own basket) is crazy high, though consistent with exhibition games and the European opponent. The Spanish Select team was limited to an offensive rebounding rate of 19.4%, again suggesting rebounding was not a priority in their game plan or possibly their style of play. Those numbers will not hold up in Division 1 play, but clearly Painter, Paschall and DiVencenzo have no problems crashing the boards. The defensive rebounding rates were more evenly distributed with DiVencenzo, Jenkins, Booth, Hart and Paschall leading the way. Painter was strangely ineffective at that end of the floor, was the Select team center more effective in blocking him out?
6. Booth and Brunson led the assist rates, suggesting they will continue the duel point guard look into this season. I hope. The approach creates a lot of flexibility on offense.

The team will travel to Madrid Saturday and play exhibition games versus ACB Select teams Sunday August 7 and Tuesday August 9 in Madrid, before returning home Wednesday August 10.

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