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Big East Lacrosse Tournament Participant Profile: Villanova

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Every Division I tournament. Every team. College Crosse has it all on lockdown. Please send cookies and naptime. Today we're slashing to bits the Big East Tournament.

Kevin Cunningham, Will Casertano, C.J. Small, and Jack Rice. Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death.

Anyway, here's the heat on Villanova.

Villanova Wildcats: Two-Seed

For a more complete, mind-bending picture, here's a .pdf of the complete report.

Record 8-6 (4-2) Clear % 82.08% (46)
Adj. Off. Efficiency 35.36 (11) Opp. Clear % 83.79% (29)
Adj. Def. Efficiency 32.10 (44) Faceoff % 54.07% (18)
Poss. Percentage 50.71% (21) Pace 65.79 (30)
Off. Poss./60 min. 33.36 (26)
DEFENSIVE STATS Def. Poss./60 min. 32.43 (31)
Save Percentage 46.9%
Saves/Def. Poss. 0.28 (48) OFFENSIVE STATS
Opp. Sht. %. 31.80% (50) Goal Differential +5
Opp. Effective Sht. % 32.27% (48) Shooting % 30.00% (20)
Def. Assist Rate 19.82 (45) Effective Sht. % 30.97% (20)
Man-Down/Def. Poss. 0.10 (33) Assist Rate 22.48 (8)
Man-Down Conversion % 27.66% (15) EMO per Off. Poss. 0.12 (12)
Man-Down Reliance 0.09 (16) EMO Conversion % 51.79% (2)
C/T per Def. Poss. 0.21 (34) EMO Reliance 0.19 (4)
Turnovers/Off. Poss. 0.43 (13)
Opp. Saves/Off. Poss. 0.36 (54)

Three pieces of incredibly important information from my brain to your eyes via your Internet computing machine:

  • A lot gets put at the feet of Dan Gutierrez for Villanova's defensive performance this season. While Gutierrez has had a tough time stopping the bean -- he only holds a 47.9 save percentage (which confers evenly with the team's overall saves per defensive possession value) -- it's not totally on the senior netminder for the Wildcats' defensive struggles this season. Out in front of Gutierrez are six cats that have done a hell of a lot of ball watching this season, allowing teams to really get off shots from preferential shooting locales. With a defensive assist rate coming in at only 45th in the country, the Villanova defense -- as a whole -- needs to help Gutierrez out a little bit. It is reasonable to believe that if Gutierrez had done a better job at ball stopping that the defensive assist rate would be better, but in such circumstances with the value being so poor, it's more on the field players than on the netminder to control the looks that opposing shooters are getting. This assist rate, when combined with Gutierrez's trouble in making saves, is why teams are shooting at such an efficient clip against the Wildcats (referring to both efficiency in number of shots to generate a tally and goals per offensive possession).
  • Everyone talks about how unique Villanova's offense is, what with all the off-ball movement, shots from everywhere, rampant sharing, and illegal screening. (Ouchies on that last one.) But where Villanova shines offensively -- both in method and in individual performance -- is when they're playing with the personnel imbalance in their favor. Only 12 teams play more with the extra attacker than Villanova and the Wildcats have excelled in those situations, converting on almost 52 percent of their attempts (a mark exceeded by only one team). Where this benefits Villanova -- other than in crushing the souls of their opponents -- is that the Wildcats put a pretty heavily reliance on these opportunities to make the scoreboard blink (only three teams have relied on extra-man opportunities to generate tallies). This doesn't mean that Villanova is impotent in six-on-six scenarios -- far from it, actually -- it's just that Villanova optimizes these chances and utilizes them as the foundation to their offensive barrage. A big reason for that is the cockamamie sideways thinking that is inherent in their offensive approach and brought into full focus while opponents are playing in man-down situations.
  • The greatest thing about Villanova's offense is that while it sometimes takes a little time to progress, they stick to it. The Wildcats don't press their shots on each possession even though the team isn't among the elite in raw shooting accuracy. Villanova really tries to generate preferable looks and operate the offense in its totality, looking for assisted opportunities running from their heavy-pick sets. This mentality of entirety has allowed Kevin Cunningham, Will Casertano, and C.J. Small to work off of one another, identifying finishers like Jack Rice and exploiting defenses attempting to focus on one or two offensive threats. This is the opposite of the Virginia situation, where Steele Stanwick is the qualified starting point and he manages to beat opponents regardless of how they play him: Villanova's six pieces flow to and from what the defense reacts to, allowing to core to share the load and maximize offensive opportunities. The Wildcats' efficiency, therefore, is not in that they shoot as well as anyone in the country, it's that they operate their offense and promote leveraged responsibility as well as anyone in the country. That's where the magic happens.

For more on Villanova's opponent -- Syracuse -- check out the Orange's profile here.