Hoop Insights: Villanova and Clutch Buckets

For years now, Jay Wright’s Villanova teams have been as predictable as you could ask for offensively. You know Villanova teams are going to get in the lane, pound their feet, and pivot to find an open shooter. You know Villanova teams are going to move the ball constantly and spread you out. You know Villanova teams are going to have at least four guys who can shoot it on the floor at all times. 

This is what Jay Wright’s motion offense and constant skill development have done for his Villanova program. It’s also provided for year-to-year consistency, as players progress through his program knowing exactly what they’re going to be about offensively on an annual basis while still playing with some freedom.

In that sense, this year is no different; Wright still has a skilled offensive bunch, and he’s running the same or similar stuff. The difference, however, is that he’s now relying on two freshmen (Justin Moore and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl) to take on significant offensive roles as two of Villanova’s four leading scorers with sophomore Saddiq Bey as the team’s leading point-producer.

But has there been a drop off with this inexperience?  Not a chance.

As you can see, Villanova is still rolling offensively, experience be damned. Jay Wright’s squad has finished around the rim as well as anyone, and their shot chart isn’t too far from an analytics dream, with a heavy concentration around the rim and plenty of shots from three.

With such a young team, you might think Wright’s guys would falter down the stretch of games. But with single-digit wins against Delaware and Mississippi State to go along with their one-point grinder of a game against Kansas, that’s clearly not the case. How have they managed to maintain their efficiency offensively with a young group late in games?

The answer is with an increased focus on scoring around the rim. As the above shot chart shows, Villanova has been even more reliant on close buckets in the last five minutes of games, with 43 of their 74 shots coming from inside the paint. Meanwhile, their percentage of shots from three decreases from 45% to 36% in the last five minutes and there’s almost no middle game to speak of.

As this group continues to gel, I imagine we’ll see even more efficient scoring from this young crew. And with the late-game poise they’ve already shown, Villanova looks to be a dangerous team as they move into conference play and deep into March.

Aaron Hanshaw is a former Division I men’s basketball staffer and a national account manager for Just Play. He studies film and analytics in-season to identify trends and interesting topics in college basketball, while also finding better ways to help staffs teach their players. You can contact Aaron at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @CoachAaronH. To learn more about Just Play, click here.