Syracuse Heads To Villanova For Return Trip
It’s only been two weeks, but in a slight scheduling oddity, Syracuse and Villanova meet again, though this time in Philadelphia. I hear a few Syracuse players over the years have some connections to the area.
Since January 12, the Wildcats have been all over the board, losing to Pittsburgh and Providence, but upsetting Louisville at home just three days after the Orange knocked them off. While the results have been wild, not much has changed about Villanova’s profile in the last two weeks. Despite efforts to shift their offensive focus inside and shake the still-standing perception as a perimeter team, the Wildcats still need good shooting from long distance to win games. You may have seen the stat float around that ‘ Nova is undefeated when it hits at least six threes, but to be more precise, accuracy plays a bigger role. Jay Wright’s team is 7-0 when it hits at least 35% of its threes and 4-7 when they fail to hit that mark. Could Villanova win Saturday while going, say, 6-20 from deep? Maybe, but it would take uncharacteristically strong performances in other departments to do so.
It would start with holding onto the ball, a season-long problem for Villanova. ‘Nova hasn’t posted a turnover rate below 20% in essentially a month, when it beat NJIT by ten on December 28. While the Orange have definitely been ball-hawks, it’s been a slightly different story as of late, as SU didn’t generate many turnovers off neither Louisville nor Cincinnati, though to be fair, throughout the fist half on Monday, Cincinnati rushed shots so quickly that the Orange didn’t have many opportunities to swarm.
The other main area from which to gain chances is on the offensive glass, where the Wildcats have been horrific since they left the Carrier Dome with a loss earlier this month. In that game, Villanova reeled in 18 of their 37 misses, which believe it or not was a better showing against SU than even Cincinnati, who picked up 43% of their bricks. Both are embarrassing rates to consider if you’re a Syracuse fan, but the Wildcats have fallen off a cliff since then. Since netting those 18 offensive rebounds on Syracuse, Villanova collected just one, nine and six offensive boards against Pittsburgh, Providence and Louisville, respectively. That’s right – the Wildcats have fewer rebounds in its last three games combined than it had against the Orange in the last meeting. Whether that’s more of an indictment of the Orange’s defensive rebounding struggles or ‘Nova’s offensive rebounding struggles is anyone’s guess, but the likely answer is a combination of both.
That category, combined with SU’s turnovers, has been the culprit of the last few nailbiters. Amazingly, the Orange are still 7.3 percentage points better on the defensive glass than they were all last year, so while I don’t think defensive rebounding is as big a concern as many are making it out to be, it’s hard to deny the argument that if the Orange could net those extra possessions and use them to key their potent transition offense, the last few games wouldn’t have been so stressful to watch.
I look for rebounding to a vital role once again; here’s hoping the Orange can do a better job cleaning up, and if they can’t, hope for more things to go right to keep the scales in their favor from wire to wire.