If any team needs a road map on how to beat the Villanova Wildcats in the NCAA tournament, look no further than Wednesday’s game against the Butler Bulldogs. Although the Wildcats were able to pull away in the second half and win easily 67-48, the first half was an abomination that would have cost them dearly against a tournament team.
The score was 10-6 Villanova with nine minutes left in the first half. For a team that started the game 23rd in the nation in points per game at 79.9, this is beyond absymal. Not to mention, Butler has only two conference wins all season, no inside presence, and their Cinderella days are behind them.
However, Butler’s perimeter defense bottled up Villanova’s backcourt, who were jacking up ill-advised three-pointers like a hungover intramural team. James Bell, Darrun Hilliard II and Ryan Arcidiacono must have forgotten about the evident size and strength advantage on the inside. Rather than looking for JayVaughn Pinkston to dominate the post or create open looks, they tried to shoot their way out of the slump. The Wildcats finished the half shooting 4-for-16 from behind the arc and 36 percent overall, as the halftime score was 34-20.
Maybe the Wildcats were looking ahead, but a slow start such as this cannot happen in March. A team like the Duke Blue Devils or the Syracuse Orange would take full advantage and coach Jay Wright knows this. He will need to assert himself in the locker room and remind his guards that Villanova’s offensive identity consists of more than three-pointers.
The Wildcats need to look inside to Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu to draw double teams and free up the guards to cut to the basket. This is the strategy used in the second half against Butler to pull away, and this is the strategy they will need to use against much stronger teams as the postseason nears. Shooting 29 3-pointers and missing 22 will only get them an early ticket back to Philadelphia and asking “what if?” once again.
Brad Stephens is an SEC Football writer for RantSports.com. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @bradstephens320.