As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 33-2 (16-2 Big East)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 120.8 (4th)/92.2 (13th)
Seed: East No. 1
Impact player: Darrun Hilliard, senior, guard. 14 ppg, 3.3 rpg,
The Case for: There’s a reason Josh Hart became the first reserve in Big East tournament history to be named its Most Outstanding Player. The Wildcats have one of the tournament’s most balanced and efficient offenses, with no player taking more than 23% of their shots while on the floor and five of their regulars ranking in the Big East’s top 10 in offensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com. Hilliard is the one most likely to provide true scoring outbursts, such as the 31 points (on 8-of-13 three-point shooting) he hung on Butler in February or the pair of six-trey games he had a month apart against Creighton and Providence.
As a team, Villanova embraces the three ball, taking 43.0% of its field goal attempts from beyond the arc, where Hilliard, Hart (46.8%), Dylan Ennis (37.2%), Ryan Arcidiacono (36.9%), and reserves Phil Booth (45.0%) and Kris Jenkins (38.7%) are all capable shooters. Yet don’t discount the work the Wildcats can do inside, where forwards Daniel Ochefu and JayVaughn Pinkston can both post up and score. The 6’11” Ochefu is an outstanding rebounder, ranking in the top 30 in rebounding rate on both ends, and his shot-blocking and versatility on switches are key to Villanova’s quality man defense.
The Case Against: It’s been six long years since Villanova last reached the NCAA tournament’s second weekend, having been upset in their second game as a No. 2 seed twice in that span. And while the Wildcats have a strong array of scorers, none of them are the type to truly take over a game on his own as a playmaker. Pinkston, not an especially big power forward at 6’7” and 235 pounds, is a weak defender overall; and he and Ochefu are particularly vulnerable on post-ups, where they have combined to allow 81 points on 76 possessions this season, according to Synergy Sports.
Villanova is good on the boards but not outstanding, so a team with size and strong prowess on the glass could gain an advantage there. And the Wildcats’ reliance on three-point shooting could get them into trouble on a night where the shots aren’t falling, like their January loss to Seton Hall, in which they shot 5-of-24 from deep, or the narrow March win over Creighton in which they shot 6-of-22.
SI prediction: Beat Lafayette in the Round of 64, beat N.C. State in the Round of 32, beat Northern Iowa in the Sweet 16, lose to Virginia in the Elite Eight