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Kyle Neptune’s Villanova Looks Like Uranus

PORTLAND, OR - NOVEMBER 24: Members of the Villanova Wildcats are seen during the game against the Iowa State Cyclones at Moda Center on November 24, 2022 in Portland, Oregon.
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Villanova freshman Brendan Hausen hit a three-pointer, and the Wildcats were finally back in front with just a little over two minutes to play. Their dispiriting early-season skid seemed like it might end. It didn't. Oregon's Quincy Guerrier tied it with a three, and then Will Richardson hit a free throw, a layup, and a jumper (in that order) on the next three possessions to lock up the win. The Ducks won, 74-67.

Sure, this was a tight loss against an opponent from a major conference. The Wildcats have also lost to Temple, Iowa State, Michigan State, and Portland (which is 5-4 but can really shoot). That made Sunday's loss number five for the Wildcats, who didn’t drop their fifth game last year until mid-January. Villanova lost all three of its games at the Portland tournament over the weekend; the last one was to an Oregon team that had just six scholarship players available. Kenpom’s numbers, which had the team in the top 20 to begin the year, now predict Villanova to finish with a .500 record in the Big East.

When I saw Villanova beat up on La Salle opening night, I wrote that they did not look much different than Jay Wright’s teams. Wright retired last season after turning Villanova into a national powerhouse during his 21 years coaching on the Main Line. I figured Kyle Neptune would be able to step right in without much drop-off, at least in his first year, if only because he would still have the players Wright recruited. So far the results are worse than I (or most anyone else) predicted. The season is still young, but we’ve all already learned one thing, at least: You should not rely on Defector for your college basketball betting tips.

But what’s up with Villanova? It’s pretty simple: The Wildcats shoot a ton of threes, and aren’t making them. On the other end of the court, they are allowing opponents to shoot a truly absurd percentage from the floor. Effective field goal percentage is a stat that adjusts for the added value of three-pointers; teams have an eFG of 53.7 percent against Villanova this season—this makes Villanova the 283rd best team in the country in that department. Teams are shooting 37.9 percent from three against them. Division I teams are shooting 49.7 on twos this year on balance; Villanova has yet to hold an opponent below 50 percent on two-point shooting.

This is Villanova’s problem: Their opponents keep shooting, and making, shots.

At the other end, almost half of Villanova’s shots this year are threes. Only 11 teams take more threes as a percentage of their shots, this year. And yet Villanova is shooting just 31.4 percent from behind the arc this year, which is 241st in the country. It is hard to win games when your opponents can shoot, and you can’t.

The Wildcats are still missing Cam Whitmore and Justin Moore. They have only lost to decent teams, and haven’t really been blown out in a way that suggests broader problems. They might turn things around. But so far, Kyle Neptune’s Villanova looks like Uranus.

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