Luke Winn told us about this back in December.
He does an early warnings list every season right around the New Year. You see, no team has reached the Final Four in the last six years with a defensive efficiency outside the top 25. And only one team has reached the Elite 8 with a defensive efficiency outside the top 51 (West Virginia in 2005 was rated 83rd).
At the time he wrote the piece Villanova was 95th in the country in defensive efficiency. While the return of Reggie Redding and Mouph Yarou has helped them shore up their defense a little bit, the Wildcats are still just 63rd in the country in defensive efficiency today.
Now take a look at the Wildcats schedule.
Who have they beaten? Who are their best wins?
Dayton is in a tie for fifth in the A-10. Ole Miss is now third in a very mediocre SEC West. Maryland is one of the few tournament contenders with fewer quality wins than Villanova. Marquette is good, but Nova shouldn't be need to go down to the final possessions to beat them. Villanova's only good win came at home against Georgetown, but that was, in a way, nullified yesterday afternoon at the Verizon Center.
Just like they did against Duke last Saturday, Georgetown's offense picked apart Villanova's defense. They started by pounding the ball into Monroe. After a couple of early buckets and a couple of early fouls on Antonio Pena, Villanova had to start collapsing inside. That allowed Georgetown's shooters daylight, and boy did they make the Wildcats pay, hitting 10-19 from deep.
After digging themselves a 50-31 hole at the half, Villanova threw on a press in the second half, and while they got the lead down to 10 on a couple of occasions, Nova was never able to string together enough stops to really ever make a threat.
"I'm not that concerned," Nova coach Jay Wright said. "Once you're down 19 to a team like this, it's a different game. You don't want to come in here and press or trap this team, but then you don't have a choice. They get into that rhythm and then you're in trouble."
Georgetown was able to score or draw a foul on seemingly every possession in the second half. They whipped the ball around the perimeter, picking up assists on 21 of their 27 made field goals. They got to the line 50 times. Basically, they were able to do anything they wanted to offensively.
"We have good players, we have unselfish players," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said after the game. "And they've done a terrific job of helping each other and making sure the right person gets the shot out of our offense."
It says a lot about Villanova defensively and how much they miss Dwayne Anderson and Shane Clark.
But what does it say about the Hoyas?
Is this Georgetown team really one that can make a run at a Final Four?
Georgetown runs a system that allows them to control the game. They are disciplined enough offensively to know what is a good shot and unselfish enough to keep moving the ball until that shot comes available. They can play a man-to-man or zone defense equally well, and are rebounding much better overall this season.
Basically, when Georgetown is playing their game and playing it well, it takes you out of what you want to do as an opponent.
"We're as good as we want to be," Monroe said. "Coach always stresses that in games it's always about us. Other teams are going to do things, different things are going to happen, but it's about what we do."
With Julian Vaughn playing the way he has the last month, they have a front line that can match-up with most in the Big East. When Jason Clark is playing well, they have four guys that can go for 20 on a given night. And, perhaps most surprisingly, their bench has actually become an asset. Jerelle Benimon is big, strong, and active, and provides a lot of hustle and toughness. Hollis Thompson plays some defense and knocks down open looks.
What makes the Georgetown offense so effective is Greg Monroe. Like Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green before him, Monroe understands this offense well enough and is a talented enough passer than the Hoyas can run their sets through him. It takes a lot of pressure off of guys like Chris Wright and Jason Clark, who are not natural point guards as much as they are natural scorers (Wright) and slahsers/defenders (Clark).
The bottom line is that the Hoyas have the talent, the size, and the coaching to make a Final Four. They proved that against Duke and Villanova.
But keep in mind with this team that consistency as become an issue. They looked great the last two Saturdays, they also lost to South Florida at home on Wednesday and got outscored by 31 in the final 37 minutes at Syracuse two Big Mondays ago.
So what about Villanova?
While they clearly have the potential to be a Final Four team -- hell, they made it last season and returned a number of key pieces -- we will find out a lot about the Wildcats this month. They still have to play West Virginia twice, travel to Cincinnati, Pitt, and Syracuse, and play UConn at home.
Win a few of those road trips, and then we'll talk about a Final Four.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Luke Winn told us about this back in December.