Texas Tech is making history as the basketball team moves on to the Elite Eight after an incredible win over Purdue on Friday, 78-65. The folks over at Big East Coast Bias, a fellow blog, were generous enough to entertain our questions before the big Elite Eight match up against Villanova. We also answered some questions that they had about our historic team (read about that here). You can find Big East Coast Bias on twitter at @becb_sbn
Villanova is a team that is/has been on everybody’s mind for the duration of this basketball season. For the average Red Raider fan, Nova is kind of an unknown entity. “They’re really good,” doesn’t encapsulate this Wildcats team so how would you shortly describe their basketball identity?
Well, I could write a novel about all the things I enjoy watching Villanova do on a basketball court, but if we’re keeping it simple: They have the second-best offense in KenPom history at the moment. They come into Sunday’s game with an Adjusted offensive efficiency of 127.5, second to 2014-15 Wisconsin’s 129.0. This year’s national average is 105.2, so, yeah. Villanova’s offense is incredible. It starts with point guard and National Player of the Year frontrunner Jalen Brunson and it trickles down from there to guys like Mikal Bridges, Omari Spellman, and Phil Booth. It’s pretty amazing what Jay Wright has continued to do over the past five years.
West Virginia is a good team, and they played Nova well for a while. At the end, however, you guys just took off. How does that moment speak to the grit of this team, their desire to go on to the final four and championship?
It’s kind of funny, because Villanova has done that sort of thing so many times this year that everyone kind of knew they’d go on a big run and pull it out. You guys have played in a conference with Kansas long enough to know that sort of feeling, right? It’s the same thing. You hang with them, and then they hit that next level and you’re suddenly down by 10. I think it definitely speaks to Wright’s coaching (the halftime adjustments, in particular. Nova was stifled by WVU’s defense in the first half) and Brunson’s playmaking ability. But it says a lot about the additional pieces, too. Brunson, Booth, and Bridges are the only three Nova players still on the team that won the title in 2016, so it really shows the culture that has been ingrained that they can keep this sort of thing going.
On that note, what is it that makes this Villanova team so special? Who are the standout players that Red Raiders need to be keeping an eye on? Also is Jalen Brunson human - or something more?
Oops. I kind of already answered this in the previous two questions, but Brunson, Bridges, Booth, and Spellman are the big four to keep an eye on. After that, it’s guys like Donte DiVincenzo and Eric Paschall, both of whom are very good shooters. Basically, anyone on the floor at any given time for Villanova is an offensive threat.
Also, I’m convinced Brunson isn’t human.
How do you guys feel about Texas Tech’s defense and ability to close out games behind Keenan Evans? How does Villanova get past a team that specializes in defending the three?
This is the big question for me. If we look at Villanova’s four losses this year, their three point percentage was around 30% in each one, 10 percent lower than their season average of 40.5%. Texas Tech’s defensive three point percentage is 32.8%. So, something’s gotta give. I think the first few minutes of the game will say a lot for both sides. If Nova can hit a couple early threes and get an early groove, they’ll likely keep stroking throughout. If they start missing, they’ll look to work inside, either to Spellman in the post or with drives from Brunson or Bridges. Texas Tech is certainly one of the best defensive squads the Wildcats have seen this year.
Finally, who wins and why?
I have to go with Villanova. No disrespect to Texas Tech, but I’m not sure any team in the nation has the offensive firepower to keep up with the Wildcats. Also, I picked them to win the title at the beginning of the tournament, and I have to stick with that.