Villanova is not Villanova at the moment

Portland, OR. – Villanova doesn’t have a crisis, but it does have a problem, and it goes something like this: It’s not terribly good at being a Villanova. not now. The system and the personality on the ground have not changed, even if the leadership has changed. that’s good. Reinvention wasn’t an option, anyway. But if the philosophy is the same and the results aren’t, and aren’t even close, that’s a warning light on the dashboard. This is an indication of a group that is not equipped to live up to the level of identity. it’s a problem.

“We’re in a place where we define ourselves very differently than everyone else,” said first-year head coach Kyle Neptune after the third loss before the end of November. call, and it was difficult to know exactly what he meant by that. Probably because it’s not something anyone at Villanova should have said in a while.

As best we can tell, Neptune really wants to break down the Season and Operation into the smallest possible pieces, so that each player can digest them more easily. Improve and grow, game by game. Hoary, but understandable. Everyone looked at this group and wondered if things would still be the same a minute before play. The usual anticipation, replaced by heaviness. Anticipation stifled under a heavy blanket.

Somewhere in what Neptune said is a confession. no giving up. Not on November 24, the first #3 loss this program has reached since 2013, but still very early days nonetheless. But nod, yeah, to the idea that Villanova’s level of ability isn’t what everyone at Villanova is used to, and certainly not with a five-star freshman still out of action. So the entire organization may take longer to look like it’s supposed to.

Villanova’s correct scheme was in place Thursday, for sure, with all the ball movement, perimeter probing and punt propulsion with the little ball formations on the ground. In general, these wildcats shoot 3s at the same rate as before them. Like ever. “They do a great job of driving you in, getting you two feet in the paint and getting you to overreact, and then finding the shooters,” said Iowa State coach TJ Utzelberger. “It’s not easy to defend.” But it’s an empty threat if these shooters hit just 28.2 percent of those shots, Villanova’s success rate over the last four games. When the long-range appearance rate goes up as high as it did against the Hurricanes—36 of his 57 field goal attempts came from outside the arc, which is a lot, even by program standards—then this version of Villanova becomes almost dimensionless. a crime.

Again: problem.

There is an ointment, if not a solution. The overall energy level could make some difference. And if Villanova doesn’t learn that after Thursday, it never will.

One of the seats in the Moda Center was a beehive. One bench chanted “Kill, kill, kill” every time there was a chance at three consecutive defensive points. The other seat was for Villanova. Activated like Neptune on the sidelines, his team vibe didn’t match, at least early on. Iowa thrives on making turnovers and smashing attacking glass, and the Wildcats had to understand the terms of the fight and handle it accordingly. Instead, Villanova was bullied. It’s annoying even to write. But it’s hard to frame the first 25 minutes or so on Thursday otherwise. “The way they play is unique,” said Neptune. “It took a while to settle in. It definitely upset us a little and bit us off.”

When Villanova came along, everything changed. Eleven turnovers in the second half forced overtime. Nine offensive rebounds in the same period, none greater than Brandon Slater more or less climbing over the Iowa State’s Koen Jazz to fend off a fumble and establish on his free throws with 10.6 seconds left in regulation. One of the least phenomenal offensive rebound teams in the country to date ultimately finished plus 4 in second chance points. Villanova outperformed a team that makes a living chasing down the misses it misses, all while going with bite-sized formations to make a comeback.

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This is an active option the team is making, and the Wildcats didn’t get it done soon enough. “By the last four or five minutes of the game we were playing hard, getting into a groove a little bit, a little bit off the beat,” said Neptune. “It was too little, too late.” They say acceptance is the last step. Which might explain the delay. But if Villanova doesn’t understand that outsmarting talent on the other side isn’t an option – not yet and probably not throughout March – he will invite more nights like the three already this season he’d rather forget.

The latest of them may hit Villanova for a while — with Portland on the consolation schedule Friday, there’s only one chance left to get Portland out with a decent win — but there are paths ahead. For example, Cam Whitmore would theoretically play college basketball this year and fill the capacity tank more. On a more subtle level, Neptune and its staff can learn and adapt; For example, two of Iowa’s biggest buckets were a direct result of a game plan to attack the Villanova Keys, with the Wildcats guard losing a battle to the Hurricanes for a meaningful pair of characters.

This is not unimportant dynamics. However, it is not quite the crux of the problem. Or at least not the fastest way to fix it.

Heading into overtime on Thursday, Iowa State chased down a loose ball while Villanova guards Chris Arcidiocono and Jordan Longino were left on the backcourt on the Moda Center floor. Final chaotic sequence. Failed the ultimate desperation test. Villanova may not be as excellent at being the Villanova as it usually is. But she can decide to be something more than she is now.

(Top photo: Soobum Im/Getty Images)

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