Villanova Thoughts | Syracusefan.com

Villanova Thoughts

General20

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If you forget the first fifteen minutes, this game went almost exactly according to script for Syracuse, but who can forget the craziest fifteen minutes of the season? It was filled with stretches of basketball (both good and bad) that we are unlikely to see again this year, but in a weird way that is exactly why I feel we can learn something from it.


I have a few unusual hobbies, and one of them is studying physics. In physics there is something called a singularity, which is the state of our Universe during its conception. Everything was once a part of this singularity and I mean everything - all the planets, stars, people, rainbows, wiener dogs, and Pabst Blue Ribbons, even all the space and all the time. Anything that has ever been or will ever be was at one time squeezed into the very small package of a singularity – so small, in fact, that it is immeasurable to the point of not taking up any physical space at all. Its crazy to think about, but this actually existed at one point.


What we saw in the first fifteen minutes of this game was the basketball version of a singularity. Everything good about Villanova and everything bad about Syracuse was on display for eleven minutes, then some sort of cosmic switch flipped and in the next six minutes every impressive Syracuse trait emerged, and every weakness Villanova suffers from came to the surface. It was a whole season of good and bad, triumph and defeat, squeezed into one short but intense burst.


I can't tell you why it went down this way, but I can make some observations.


When Villanova is running on all cylinders, multiple players are shooting well, and you can't focus on any one player. In the first few minutes of this game three different players hit four very difficult shots. On defense, Villanova's pressure renders passing lanes invisible and causes offenses to grind to a one-on-one halt.


A quick look at the play by play shows Villanova scoring to start the game on a twenty-five foot pull up by James Bell, then Darrun Hilliard hitting another three from almost as deep. Next Archidiacono made an unbelievably tough two dribble drive and pull up with a hand in his face, and finally, James Bell hit the toughest shot off all, a three from the corner with Keita right in his face. That's twelve points, on 100% shooting, and not a single bad defensive possession by Syracuse.


In the four minutes that followed, four time outs were called (two by Syracuse, and two television time outs) and Boeheim used those time outs to sit his starters down one by one. Even Roberson got a few minutes of playing time as Boeheim brought Fair to the bench for a discussion. I cannot tell you what Boeheim said to those kids. I know intellectually that coaching is not as easy as saying a few words and watching the game completely turn around. I know intellectually that most coaching takes place over hours and hours of practice, but if I didn't know all this I might think Boeheim was some kind of witchdoctor, because shortly after those timeouts the game took a 180 degree turn around.



Villanova continued to take difficult shots, but now they missed. Ennis found the flow of the game and started setting up offensive plays instead of struggling to avoid turnovers. Back screens were set on every possession for both Fair and Cooney and the two of them did damage. Cooney scored 8 during SU's twenty point run, and Fair had 6.


If you read my pre-Villanova thoughts, I break down Villanova's defensive principles. Essentially they make pick and rolls useless because they put several players on the court who can defend multiple positions (so there is never a mismatch) and they switch on every pick.


Knowing this, Syracuse smartly stayed away from pick and rolls, and opted instead for screens under the basket designed to free shooters (Cooney and Fair specifically) who are running away from the basket. In my pre-Villanova thoughts I compared Villanova's defense to Syracuse's, and you saw that in this game both defenses forced a lot of outside shots, even though they do it in different ways.


When Villnova hit their shots, they went on a big run, and when Syracuse's shots fell they went on a run. After that, two things stood out to me. First, Syracuse showed how many ways it can win. Second, Villanova showed how one dimensional they are.


If you remember back to last year, Syracuse had one win and one loss against a bad Villanova team, mostly because Southerland was out for the loss and without him Syracuse didn't have much to their offense other than the pick and roll (which Villanova is one of the best at defending).


This year's team compliments each other so well (Ennis and Cooney especially) that you can't take any one thing away and stop them. No pick and roll? For this Syracuse team it was no problem. Cooney and Fair had little problem hitting jump shots off back screens. Ennis and Grant were able to beat their man off the dribble without the benefit of a screen. And offensive rebounds and put backs were plentiful.


On the other side of things Villanova took lots of threes, and when that stopped working their answer was to take even more threes. Villanova always shoots a lot of threes, this season taking almost as many threes as twos (they average 30 two point shots a game and 27 threes a game). In this game though Villanova went off the deep end, only taking 19 two point shots, while throwing up a whopping 31 threes.


Villanova is a 32% three point shooting team for the year. Jacking up 31 threes is not a winning strategy for them, but they looked utterly devoid of ideas against our zone. By the end of the game they were even more limited, relying not just on three point shooting, but three point shooting from James Bell specifically. He's 6'6 and was not afraid to pull up from 25 feet and beyond. That's a shot there is no answer for. Luckily for Villanova he went 6 for 12. If he was cold they could have easily lost by 30.


In the name of brevity, I wont re-post my entire Villanova predictions post here, but I want to quickly address them.


I was most surprised that Syracuse won the rebounding battle (mostly because Villanova always out rebounds Syracuse). Now to be fair, Villanova did get a good amount of offensive rebounds in this one. Syracuse's rebounding advantage came from pulling down a huge amount of their own misses rather than stopping Villanova from hitting the boards. Villanova's offensive rebounding percentage in this game was 32.4% which is pretty good, and higher than Syracuse usually gives up (their average is 31.6%). Syracuse's offensive rebounding percentage was 37%, which is really high when you consider that Villanova only gives up 29.6% of the available offensive rebounds on average.


The other thing that surprised me was JayVaughn Pinkston's complete invisibility. He is averaging almost 16 a game, and seems to have most of the skills necessary to succeed inside our zone, but in this one it didn't show. H literally did nothing inside the three point line scoring only 3 points, all of which came from behind the arc, and missing the only two inside shots he took.


My keys to the game were Ennis finishing around the basket, Syracuse getting back in transition, Grant's free throw shooting, and Villanova's three point shooting.


Ennis was 2-5 on lay ups. A positive for Villanova.



Syracuse let up a few easy transition baskets early, but mostly prevented transition baskets the rest of the way by scoring consistently. An overall positive for Syracuse.


Grant went 7 for 8 from the free throw line. A positive for Syracuse.


Villanova went 10 for 31 from three. Even though it did not look like it at first, this ended up being a big positive for Syracuse.


Player evaluations:


Ennis – What you saw from Ennis was remarkable in many ways, but I prefer to think of it not as a remarkable game, but a remarkable player having (for him) an average game. If you pressure Ennis he will burn you, its pretty much that simple. And what can you say about ZERO turnovers against the best press Syracuse will face this year? He might just become the best player in basketball when he learns to finish his lay ups. My only (admittedly nit picking) gripe is that Ennis had a lay up to put Syracuse up 10 with under 5 minutes left (my magic formula for a win) and he missed it, allowing Nova a break away basket the other way in transition. There are few areas Syracuse can improve significantly in, but Ennis finishing around the basket is one.


Cooney – I say this a lot, but the guy makes difficult shots regularly. Villanova tried guarding him with about five different players and nobody could stop him. If he keeps making these types of shots, nobody is ever going to stop him. When Syracuse fell behind by 18, Cooney hit a three to start the comeback. He was the leading scorer during the comeback. Then, in the second half, after sitting the bench for a while, he came back in when Nova cut the lead to three, rescued Keita from a trap, and buried a deep fade away that was the biggest of many big shots for Cooney in this game. He also did a huge amount of ball handling. Did you notice that when Ennis sat the bench Cooney brought the ball up instead of Gbinije? I thought this was a smart move. He had a few more passes tipped than I would have liked, but he only had 1 turnover and he handled the ball a ton. Oh yea, and he also had 3 steals. Have to put this game in the argument for best games by a Syracuse player so far this year.


Fair – He turned the ball over a few times in this one, and his shooting percentage, while solid, was not through the roof, but he hit the boards hard, and he drained two very important threes when we needed some shots to fall. It seems like his three point shot is starting to fall more often lately. Another good day at the office from Fair.


Christmas – played 11 minutes at center – Against a team as small as Villanova you don't want to play two big guys, so Christmas's minutes were a bit limited, but he fought hard under the basket and continues to look more and more like an offensive option. His limited points have more to do with his teammates failure to get him the ball than his own skill. There was a point where Syracuse turned the ball over twice trying to get him the ball, then just gave up on the whole idea.


Coleman – played 6 minutes at center - Boeheim said he hurt his knee, but Coleman looked like he was moving pretty well to me. Coleman is much improved from last year, but right now he is option number three, especially in a game like this where running the court is essential. What you want to see from Coleman is steady improvement so he will be a contributor for us next year when we need him. We are seeing that.


Gbinije – I thought he played great. He is learning that his place on this team is as a defensive enforcer, and he is playing with a nasty streak. Obviously we don't want him fouling three point shooters late in the game, but that foul was the product of playing hard nose in your face defense. I will take it. When Syracuse had a lead it wanted to salt away, Boeheim put Gbinije in the game and he responded by forcing two straight jump balls on plays where Villanova tried to drive to the basket. He just attacked the ball and pulled it away from people, and you know what? Villanova didn't try to drive the ball very much after that. He also looked pretty comfortable against a tough press which to this point had been his kryponite. I love to see players finding their role within the team and its looking like Gbinije has.


Grant – He took the ball to the basket hard all game and earned 8 free throws. Even better, he made 7 of them. Early on Grant got clobbered on a few drives to the basket without a whistle, and Syracuse stopped calling his number. Too bad, because I think he could have had more than the 11 points he had.


Keita – He has officially regained his final 4 form, and its exciting to watch. If you don't think a defensive enforcer around the basket is important, just look at Louisville this year and compare them to last year. Last year's team was a defensive powerhouse. This year, they look weak and vulnerable, and the only important defensive change was the loss of their big man. Keita does not need to score to be one of the best players on the team, and he did absolute damage to Villanova in this one.


Roberson – Didn't play enough to judge.
 

jordoo

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general20 I thought after the first 10 minutes your pregame thoughts were pretty accurate. It was a crazy start but I kept telling myself that that first handful of baskets were well defended and we've seen it before. What really got us so far behind was that combined with very poor offense which we don't see much with this team. I think Nova won't have any huge problems in the BE but the games against the Johnies could be very interesting. They area good team but I don't see them being able to win 6 in a row in the NCAAT although they should be able to get a very high seed should they take care of their business. One of the only things that has bugged me about Jay Wright teams is that they continue to foul and foul harder as the game gets away from them. They seem to get a pass on it as the medea seems to think its great never give up effort. To me its a bit cheep and seeing it every game we put it to them over the years has begun to wear on me although otherwise I a have always liked Jay Wright and he does great post game pressers.

What a great game to watch as a fan, I think that one will stay on the DVR for quite a while. I still think Grant can take it to the next level although he should have been going to the line every time he drove which didn't happen. Ennis is a great PG but can still get better as can CJ with his shooting and limiting TO's. Agreed on Baye he looked huge compared to the Nova guys. Rak again agree I wish we got him 6-8 shots a game he'd make most of them. DC2 is also inching along in the right direction. MikeG can do more on offense but really doesn't need to. Cooney has been great what else can you say. I will say one thing about Roberson he didn't stick out as being out of place or making mistakes on D which is an improvement although he still kind of seems to be wondering where to be on offense.
 

Orangezoo

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Great post. And the nerd in me greatly appreciates the singularity reference. Good stuff!
 

jordoo

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Great post. And the nerd in me greatly appreciates the singularity reference. Good stuff!

If you believe in that stuff, I mean you do know we are aliens right :p
 

zhanjuzi

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Great post. And the nerd in me greatly appreciates the singularity reference. Good stuff!

Fantastic post!

(Yes ! .. not alone. Another nerd here .. still working through the Schwarzchild's solution for non-spinning spherical black holes.)
 

No Hoyas

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Singularity??
You must be a "main stream" type of physics hobbyist.
Everyone knows...
images
 

jordoo

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Singularity??
You must be a "main stream" type of physics hobbyist.
Everyone knows...
images

I love how that dudes hair got to be more and more of a halo as the seasons went on.
 

MSOrange

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Wow you taught me about physics about basketball all in one post. And getting me to understand anything about physics is pretty much impossible.
 

pearl31

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and I'm pretty sure there's stuff like inertia and centrifugal force and torque going on in any given basketball game too!
 

Orangezoo

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My favorite physics topic is cliche but still a favorite. Einsteins theory of relativity..
 

NineOneSeven

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Two things I completely agree with:

1. It makes no sense when defenders play up tight on Ennis like Nova was doing. Leave him space. He's too fundamentally sound. They repeatedly got burned by playing up on him 25 feet from the basket.

2. "his limited points have more to do with his teammates failure to get him the ball than his own skill." Bingo.
 

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