Villanova's Implacable Death Machine Has Played Defenses Like Ours Before

Submitted by stephenrjking on April 2nd, 2018 at 1:07 PM

They are terrifying. The world believes, with ample reason, that they are going to carve us to pieces.

I had entertained the thought that maaaaaybe playing a defense of our caliber would result in different results than they're accustomed to. After all, we're really good. 

So I checked. And it turns out Villanova has played a defense like ours.

We are the kenpom #3 defense; Texas Tech is the #4 defense (paired with a kenpom #51 offense). And Villanova just beat them, by 12 points. 

And, uh, shot 4-24 from 3-point range. Brunson scored 15 points on 18 shot equivalents. They won based upon going 29-35 at the line.

So, um, they probably played a lot of good Ds in the Big East, right? I checked the kenpom D rankings, just scrolling and looking for "BE" in the conference file. 

After Villanova itself, the top BE defense I found was St. John's (#29), whom they played twice this year. In the first game at MSG, Donte DiVincenzo went 6-9 from 3 and Villanova won easily by (checks notes) 7 points, 78-71. In the second game, at Nova, Villanova... er, lost 79-75 while shooting 24% from deep.

Scrolling down the kenpom D rankings, the next BE team, at #39, is Providence. Their last meeting, at Providence? Um, 76-71 Providence, with Nova shooting an improbable 3-20 from beyond the arc.

D them up. Hope that the 30% chance our offense shows is a hit. And then, you never know.


Harbaugh's Lef…

April 2nd, 2018 at 1:13 PM ^

Let's not forget that St Johns beat Nova this season on their own court. The "experts" don't think we have a chance and the stats are not in our favor but the game is played on the court and I have zero doubt that this team will be ready for the game, the opportunity, they have in front of them!

Yost Ghost

April 2nd, 2018 at 5:15 PM ^

They don't even need a TAMU kind of night from the field and behind the arc, although I'll take it in a heartbeat. All UM has to do is play the D they have been all tourney and hit their season averages on O to win. TTU showed what a good D can do to Nova's offense the problem for TTU was theyr'e 51st in AdjO on KenPom and couldn't score (or rebound). If UM can do the same thing on D that Tech did and hit their scoring averages they should be golden.

G. Gulo of the Dale

April 2nd, 2018 at 2:07 PM ^

... in two other threads, but Villanova was down two starters (though not Brunson or Bridges) when they lost to St. John's--and St. John's was playing really well and had just beaten Duke.  I think it's still relevant that St. John's played them relatively tough both times, although I doubt Villanova loses to the Johnnies if playing at full strength (it was a one-point game with 25 seconds to go).


April 2nd, 2018 at 2:35 PM ^

If it is a tight game and they aren't playing the way they like to, I think the pressure starts to build on them. I agree that it is ideal that this turns into more of a grind, still have to hope our offense is better than it has been for most of the tournament.


April 2nd, 2018 at 3:09 PM ^

Not tight at the end of the game but WVU had them down in the 2nd half by 6 and then Villanova went on a 19-4 run to pretty much separate themselves from the Moutaineers. The key in this game is to not let Nova go on a spurt like that. If the team keeps them at bay and not let them get too far out ahead, the defense down the stretch could make Nova uncomfortable and lead to some costly turnovers.


April 2nd, 2018 at 4:29 PM ^

With lots of fouls called on Villanova. I'd take our bench over theirs any day. I hate to say it, but I am hoping for a quick whistle tonight, but only against Nova.


April 2nd, 2018 at 1:21 PM ^

Hahaha...this place never fails. I came to post that gif too and lo and behold I was beaten to the punch. Well done.

I don't doubt that the D is going to show up tonight, but really need the Offense to play their best game of the year to win this sucker. 



April 2nd, 2018 at 1:31 PM ^

Right. Love how when a team plays poorly it's because of their own deficiencies and not because the other team had anything to do with it. 

This won't go the way of the Kansas game. As others have mentioned, their perimeter D was just awful. Granted, Nova knocked down the open shots, but many if not most of them were completely or almost completely uncontested. We don't play that sort of D. We also play a much more deliberate style of offense, which won't have us jacking up (too many) playground-style shots. I think Kansas panicked after getting punched in the mouth early. Dug themselves too big a hole. The second half was essentially tied for all intents and purposes - the diference was just falling behind big no more than 5 minutes into the game. 


April 2nd, 2018 at 1:26 PM ^

It's tough to beat the best team when they are playing their best ball.

That said...we have seen Beilein win significant games as the decided underdog:

2013 over #1 seed Kansas

This season, beat "Izzo's most talented team ever" 2x by double digits

2017 B10 tournament - won as 8 seed, beat 1, 4, 2 seeds

2018 B10 tournament - won as 5 seed, beat 4, 1, 3 seeds

But man...our guys have gotta come out hot. 3 of 5 starters got shut down vs Loyola - Livers/Simpson/MAAR combined to shoot 2/17, 0/8 from 3, total 7 pts. Livers/Simpson were shut out.

No way we grind out an ugly W vs this team. But our guys are capable of blowing up on both ends. We have one of the best coaches in nation - he will have the best plan possible and have our guys ready to execute it!!


L'Carpetron Do…

April 2nd, 2018 at 2:35 PM ^

Haha true.  Actually I find myself incapable of changing the channel most of the time.  Even in the ugly L's vs Neb and NW I watched pretty much the whole thing. I think I even watched the entirety of the nightmare that was the bowl game this year as well although most of it is blacked out in my mind. But I don't really anticipate a painful, unwatchable game for Michigan tonight.  GO BLUE!

I shouldn't have said that though - I was just trying to praise the X-Files - didn't mean to sound like a chump fan! 


April 2nd, 2018 at 1:40 PM ^

If we play like we did in 4 of the 5 tourney games, we lose for sure. I can't imagine beating this team if our shots arent falling, or turning it over a ton, or  super slow start.

If we play like we did vs Texas A&M,  we obviously have a great chance.

For what its worth, I think we have the pyschological advantage. Could be everything in a NC game, might not matter at all. 


April 2nd, 2018 at 1:43 PM ^

The problem is, say we play superb D and hold Villanova to 70 points (only twice in 39 games have they failed to score 70). Can we hit enough shots to top them? Our offense has stagnated and our shooting has gone cold for long stretches of this tournament. Texas A&M is a reminder of what we can do when we're hot, but that's appearing more and more like the outlier than the norm. Hopefully Villanova's 3pt shooting crashes back to earth and our guys can heat up a little. We need to prevent any extended runs (like Kansas starting off in a 22-4 hole), it's going to be much harder to come back from 10 points down than it was against Loyola. 


April 2nd, 2018 at 2:14 PM ^

It's the National Championship.  In basketball.  

You should have to hit shots to win it.  You don't deserve it if you can't.

If we don't hit basketball shots in the National Championship and they beat us because of it, then as they say in soccer: "Fair result."



April 2nd, 2018 at 5:02 PM ^

Exactly.  Going into this tournament Virginia was the best team, but EVERY team was beatable.  There was not a single team that stood out as OMG SHIRTLESS THEIR AWESOME.

Now, here we are against a team that was never a top 2 in the tourney (virginia and duke started as odds favorites)

But most here are acting now that THIS is now the unbeatable team.

Naked Bootlegger

April 2nd, 2018 at 1:51 PM ^

I like the way you think, stephenjrking.

Nova, on paper, looks unbeatable.   But their few losses, including the suprising loss to a 4-14 (conference record) St. John's team, illustrate how damn difficult it is to win on any given night.

They are beatable.  Play decent defense, get in their jockstraps when they're gunning 3's, and hit a few shots of our own.   Purdue is a decent analog, minus the lack of an outside threat at the 5 position.    We still barely lost to Purdue despite the fact that they shot like 70% from behind the arc in the first game.  

Section 35

April 2nd, 2018 at 1:54 PM ^

I’ve never been a big fan of this team beat this team so that means this team has a better shot at beating this team who lost to this team. At the end of the night Has Ken Pon ever won or lost a game?


April 2nd, 2018 at 3:14 PM ^

Yeah advanced metrics are stupid and highly unreliable! 



We all get that the game is played on the court, that includes KenPom, who uses the stats from every game actually played to improve his metrics.  But don't dismiss how important matchups and gameplans are in determining who will win, or the value of advanced metrics.  If you don't like what the data says, fine, but overall they are extremely useful to predict future outcomes.  

(Ever heard of "the shift" in baseball?)  

True Blue Grit

April 2nd, 2018 at 1:58 PM ^

excited as hell about this team and what they've accomplished this season.  Yeah, Villanova is a very good team, but so is Michigan.  All the pressure is on them.  Michigan can and will play loose and have some fun in the process.  We'll have a ton of fans there - more than Nova.  Get ready for a night to remember!


April 2nd, 2018 at 2:18 PM ^

I'm stressing out too much about how good Nova is, rather than enjoying the fact that the final is tonight and WE ARE IN IT.

Sure, it would be an upset if we win. But you don't get to play a bad team in the final.

There are reasons to be hopeful: our D, Beilein at the helm, the possibility of our guys blowing up on offense, etc.

Go blue!!


April 2nd, 2018 at 2:28 PM ^

Of course you want to win when you get this far.  There are no guarantees you make it back, in fact, for guys like Mo and MAAR it's their only chance.

However, I hope the team knows how awesome it has been to watch this.  I hope they play with some pure joy.  Take it all in.  Have fun.  Fight the good fight.  I think our underdog status and Villanova being the 300 pound gorilla is actually our ace in the hole.

Go Blue.  Fight.  That's all I ask.  Stranger things have happened.



April 2nd, 2018 at 2:02 PM ^

Hey Guys!  I just had a dream where I was on MGoBlog and everybody was talking about how Michigan was going to win the National Championship in basketball based on defense.

I know, right?



April 2nd, 2018 at 2:03 PM ^

Some points of encouragement (which I'm sure have all kinds of stats to negate any good feelings, but I'll try anyway...)

  • From what I can tell, they haven't beat a top-8 Kenpom team. Kansas was their best win on the entire season; Kansas is currently #9 on Kenpom (and Kansas has the #47 adjusted defense).
  • UM has had 3 top-8 Kenpom wins (MSUx2, Purdue). All better than any Nova wins.
  • Their best regualr season wins were over Xavier (twice), who is #58 in adjusted defense. UM defense is #3.
  • They only beat 3 top25 teams all regular season. Xavier twice, Gonzaga once. Florida State beat both of those teams, before losing to Michigan.
  • They lost to Providence, St Johns, Butler, and Creighton. The best defense on that list is St Johns at #29, and the best offense is Providence at #22.
  • Virginia was #1 in Kenpom before the tournament started. It didn't make them unbeatable or anything close to it.

Summary -- they've put up a bunch of crazy-good stats against a bunch of "meh" teams. Their best win is Kansas (who is by far the worst defensive team in the Kenpom top10, not a good matchup for the #1 offense).