Basketball

Villanova Basketball 2021-22 Game Preview: Butler Bulldogs

Villanova Basketball 2021-22 Game Preview: Butler Bulldogs

The ‘Cats end their regular season Saturday in Indianapolis against the Butler Bulldogs. Providence may have won the Big East regular season crown, but Villanova beat them last Tuesday, giving the ‘Cats the season sweep of the Brothers.

Villanova also has the most wins in the Big East this season with 15 and has a chance of reaching 16. A win at Hinkle will also give Villanova a 16-3 conference finish for the regular season.

Wound at Hinkle

Hinkle… not a word that evokes good feelings from Nova Nation. Villanova is just 4-4 against Butler at Hinkle since the realignment, including losing the last two to the Bulldogs in their backyard.

Adding to the issues Villanova had against the Bulldogs in Indy, it’s the same place the ‘Cats had just 51 points in their Sweet 16 loss to Baylor to finish last year. With that loss, Villanova has lost three straight games at Hinkle averaging just 56 points in the last two.

These are just numbers and Davion Mitchell is now on the Sacramento Kings and the ‘Cats hit Butler by 40 about a month and a half ago. It bears mentioning that Hinkle has one of the toughest atmospheres in all of college basketball.

Shots up

The 40-point strike Butler received from Villanova six weeks ago was largely due to Villanova knocking down 12 3-pointers. It was one of their best shooting performances from behind the arc this season. 3-point shooting has had its ups and downs this season for the ‘Cats, but in mid-January, their best shooters were making shots. Gillespie, Moore and Daniels combined to go 10 of 14 from range in Game 1 against Butler.

“Nova is like any basketball team, at every level, they’re better when their best players are hitting.” We’ve seen the difference on offense when only one of these guys is shooting or when neither is losing against Creighton and Baylor. We also saw what the offense looks like when two or all of these guys knock down shots in both wins over Providence.

It’s not the kind of season you expect from Butler, but they were more competitive in the second half of the season with wins at Hinkle over Creighton and Marquette. At the end of February, they led 19 against Providence at Hinkle before dropping a point in overtime.

This type of environment will be perfect to prepare Villanova for the Big East Tournament and the NCAA Tournament.

roll with six

The depth of this squad has been a big talking point for Nova Nation all season. Time will prove what happens, but I’ve accepted that six players will probably play all but ten minuets from now on. Is it ideal? No it is not. Does it completely define a team’s cap? No, this is not the case.

Every Final Four team had flaws and every national champion had flaws. 2018 Villanova did it, 2012 Kentucky did it, and even the ’06-’07 Gators did it. I’m not comparing this Nova team to those, just that there are always weaknesses to point out and maybe that’s a news flash to some, but the other team is also flawed and also trying to actively win the game.

Granted, maybe even doubly granted, these Gators probably had the biggest frontline in D1 history with Noah, Horford and Brewer, but they didn’t have a good dribbler. Now they didn’t need it with the big passes and messages from Noah and Horford. The thing is, they didn’t have a guard who could get out and go to work. Taurean Green was nice but more of a pacemaker, which was perfect for those Billy Donovan teams.

Teams adapt, coaches adapt and teams have to find a way.

I prefer a nine-man rotation, I always have but I’m not going to be upset if the 7th and 8th guys don’t see more than five minutes a game for the rest of the season. Jay Wright wants this team to play with a specific pace and win with tenacity.

As this season approached, you could see the limits of attack. There was an inexperienced player who got the starting gig at the Five. There were attackers who really didn’t shoot well. We weren’t sure who, if anyone, could help out as a secondary ball handler.

Eric Dixon has been constantly improving and position five is not a problem. Samuels and Slater offer a variety of positives on the floor but the shot misses. Its good. Teams adapt.

I wrote earlier in the season that whatever this team’s cap is, it’s going to come from the defensive end and play with intention. I was thinking of the Grit-and-Grind Grizzlies with Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen and Mike Conley. I thought of it more in concept rather than in personal. This Nova team had to find a way to get the games through the mud, get through it, and beat the teams. Since the loss at Creighton, I feel like they’ve done it.

It’s one of the best defensive teams Jay Wright has had. I don’t know the exact numbers at this time; I did it when Antoine was getting about 15 minutes a game and they were in the top 20-25 defensive units in the country. They more than passed my eye exam on defense.

They’ve done a much better job this season of keeping dynamic guards from reaching the rim. They did a great job in rebounding the team. Their switching on defense has been consistently good all year. The struggles they had in defense were miscommunication or a young player getting lost.

Nova Nation wants the depth, why don’t we but it doesn’t get done and for that last stretch, those ‘Cats are going to roll with it.

Let’s walk, Nova

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It’s March, and if you like the ‘Cats and college basketball, you’ll probably want to take the whole month off.

If Villanova can make the Big East Finals, that gives them four more games before the NCAA Tournament. If so, then at least a 3-1 finish will give them no less than three seeds.

There is a lot of talk in Nova Nation about seeding and the eastern region in particular. A seeded two feels better than a seeded three, but if seeded three is in Philadelphia, would that be a better tournament path for Villanova?

What do you think? Do those ‘Cats finish 26-7, 25-8, 24-8? Is there a Big East Tournament title coming up? Do you want Nova to get the highest seed possible or do you prefer them to be in the East region regardless of the seed? This Nova team will stick in games with their defense, and they have two guards who can catch fire and fill them up quickly. A deep run wouldn’t surprise me.

Ring and Go ‘Cats!