For many years, Villanova constantly disappointed in the NCAA Tournament. Then last year they destroyed opponents en route to their second ever national championship. The Wildcats set an NCAA tournament record for scoring margin, beating their opponents by a combined 124 points.
Time to Defend
Now Villanova is set to defend its national championship. Head coach Jay Wright said his team is in business mode. The Wildcats enter the tournament as the top overall seed in the field. They are the first defending champions to earn a number one seed since Duke earned a number one seed in 2011 as the defending champions. Villanova went 28-3 in the regular season and won the Big East Tournament for the first time in two years. They are the top-seeded team in the East region and will face either Mount St. Mary’s or New Orleans in the first round.
Villanova is looking to become the ninth team to repeat as national champions and the first team to do it since the Gators went back-to-back in 2006 and 2007. History has not been kind to defending champions in recent years. Since 2008, no defending champion has advanced past the Sweet Sixteen.
The Wildcats have one of the best offenses in the nation, ranking 2nd in adjusted offensive efficiency per Kenpom. They are led by senior Josh Hart who is averaging 18.9 points per game on 51 percent shooting and 6.5 rebounds per game. Villanova is one of the best shooting teams in the country, shooting 49.7 percent from the field which is tied for sixth in the country. They’re also an excellent free-throw shooting team, shooting 79.4 percent which is second in the nation.
— Villanova MBB (@NovaMBB) March 13, 2017
Villanova’s biggest strength on offense is its two-point play. The Wildcats are converting a ridiculous 59.7 percent of their two-point attempts, good enough for second in the country. They’re not quite as good from three where they’re 79th in the country, converting 37 percent of their three-point attempts.
In addition to a great offense, the Wildcats have a very good defense. They are 12th in adjusted defensive efficiency according to Kenpom and 17th in points allowed per game (62.8). Mikal Bridges is arguably the team’s best defensive player, ranking second on his team in steals and blocks, and first in defensive box plus/minus according to Sports Reference.
Not without weaknesses
Every team, even the best one, has a weakness and Villanova is not without them. One of the big concerns about the Wildcats entering this tournament is lack of depth. Throughout the season, Villanova has leaned heavily on eight players. In a tournament where depth is tested, this could prove to be costly for the Wildcats.
In addition, Villanova is a weak rebounding team, grabbing 33 boards a game which is tied for 287th in the country. A big reason for Villanova’s weakness on rebounding is lack of size. Only four players on the team are 6-9 or taller.
In the end
The Wildcat have their weaknesses, but at the end of the day, they are 31-3 and enter the tournament as the defending champions and the top overall team. With an excellent offense spearheaded by Hart and a defense that is more than capable of holding its own, the Wildcats could potentially cut down the nets in April again.
Villanova will begin its title defense on Thursday at 7:10 p.m. on CBS.