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Know Your MSG Rival: Villanova

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LEAVE YOUR TRIFECTA PICKS IN COMMENTS. I will be doing some work travel tomorrow during the game, so let's go ahead and throw this up today.

Time for Real Opponent No. 3 for Missouri. Hopefully the Tigers show as well as they did for Real Opponents No. 1-2.

Villanova (5-2)

'Nova Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
Points Per Minute
Points Per Possession (PPP)
Points Per Shot (PPS)
2-PT FG% 50.0%
3-PT FG% 34.8%
FT% 80.0%
True Shooting % 57.4%

'Nova Opp.
Assists/Gm 13.7
Steals/Gm 5.1
Turnovers/Gm 13.0
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO

'Nova Opp.
Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm 11.7
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 12.4
Difference +0.7

As you'll see below, Villanova is an extremely young team this year. Their top three players are juniors, while one sophomore and five freshmen round out the rotation. They are much bigger than the four-guard Villanova teams you got to know a couple of years ago, and they enjoy strong rebounding and good overall offense. Defense, however, has been an issue. Despite playing only one good team, the Wildcats are allowing a point a possession -- not very good. (As means of comparison, Mizzou is allowing a stingy 0.87 despite playing two ranked teams.) They have a very good big man and should be able to put the ball in the basket, but in theory, they won't be able to handle Mizzou on the perimeter. In theory.

Ken Pomeroy Stats

VU Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

VU Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 23
Effective FG% 103
Turnover % 89
Off. Reb. % 71
MU Offense vs VU Defense Ranks

MU Offense VU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 5
MU Big
Effective FG% 2
MU Big
Turnover % 4
MU Big
Off. Reb. % 210
VU Big
VU Big

Where The Wildcats Are Weakest

A few numbers stand out there, huh? They don't shoot amazingly well, but it isn't necessarily a weakness. Their biggest problem is simply that they allow you to shoot relatively well, and they don't force any turnovers (meaning you're going to get a good shot on most possessions).

Where They Are Best

They will scoop up your misses, and they won't allow you free points from the line. Meanwhile, they will draw quite a few fouls themselves (and make their free throws -- they are fourth in the country at 80%) and create just enough second opportunities to make up for the fact that, again, they don't shoot amazingly well from the field.

Opp's Season to Date

  • Wins (Team Rank is from
    No. 109 La Salle, 76-69 (OT)
    No. 187 Delaware, 79-69
    No. 197 Penn, 73-65
    vs No. 277 UC Riverside, 71-46
    No. 330 Monmouth, 106-70
  • Losses
    vs No. 25 St. Louis, 68-80
    vs No. 134 Santa Clara, 64-65

In games versus Top 200 teams, 'Nova is 3-2 with a 12-point loss and no wins by more than 10 points. They lost two of three away from home (in the 76 Classic in Anaheim), and generally speaking, they are not nearly as good a team now as they probably will be in February or so, when the juniors are playing like seniors, freshmen like sophomores, etc. This appears to be a transition year for Jay Wright; making the NCAA Tournament would be a decent accomplishment.

Opp Player Stats

Player AdjGS*/
Mouphtaou Yarou (6'10, 255, Jr.)
29.4 MPG, 16.0 PPG (57% 2PT, 70% FT), 8.4 RPG (2.9 Off. Reb), 1.0 BPG, 1.7 TOPG
Maalik Wayns (6'2, 200, Jr.) 16.8
32.4 MPG, 18.7 PPG (55% 2PT, 30% 3PT, 91% FT), 4.4 APG, 3.3 TOPG
Dominic Cheek (6'6, 190, Jr.)
30.6 MPG, 12.9 PPG (52% 2PT, 26% 3PT, 94% FT), 5.0 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.0 TOPG
James Bell (6'6, 225, So.)
25.6 MPG, 9.9 PPG (53% 2PT, 42% 3PT, 82% FT), 3.4 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.6 TOPG
Darrun Hilliard (6'6, 205, Fr.)
27.4 MPG, 7.4 PPG (53% 2PT, 59% 3PT, 75% FT), 3.9 RPG, 1.4 APG
Markus Kennedy (6'9, 260, Fr.)
11.5 MPG, 2.0 PPG (35% 2PT, 0% FT), 4.2 RPG (1.5 Off. Reb)
Achraf Yacoubou (6'4, 210, Fr.)
12.0 MPG, 2.9 PPG (29% 2PT, 27% 3PT, 100% FT)
JayVaughn Pinkston (6'7, 260, Fr.)
19.9 MPG, 4.7 PPG (33% 2PT, 20% 3PT, 61% FT), 3.9 RPG, 2.4 TOPG
Ty Johnson (6'3, 185, Fr.)
7.7 MPG, 1.3 PPG, 1.0 TOPG

* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds. It redistributes a team's points based not only on points scored, but also by giving credit for assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls. It is a stat intended to determine who had the biggest overall impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

  • Highest Usage%: Wayns (29%), Yarou (26%), Cheek (21%)
  • Highest Floor%: Hilliard (48%), Yarou (45%), Wayns (43%)
  • Highest %Pass: Johnson (72%), Kennedy (63%), Hilliard (56%)
  • Highest %Shoot: Yarou (47%), Yacoubou (44%), Cheek (43%)
  • Highest %Fouled: Yarou (23%), Pinkston (22%), Cheek (19%)
  • Highest %T/O: Pinkston (18%), Johnson (10%), Yarou (8%)

Yarou is 'Nova's best player and their single biggest matchup advantage. He rarely fouls, and he could pretty quickly get virtually all of Mizzou's bigs in foul trouble. If VU gets a huge game from him, they have a chance. If not, Mizzou holds most of the other matchup advantages. Wayns and Cheek are solid players, and on a good day, they could neutralize Mizzou's advantages versus Marcus Denmon and Kim English. However, they are almost certainly going to have a turnover-prone freshman on the court at all times, which is obviously nice. They basically have two very good players (Yarou, Wayns), two solid ones (Cheek, Bell) and quite a few freshmen still learning the ropes.

(Villanova's size advantage is tamped down at least a smidge, by the way, with the loss of 6'11 junior Maurice Sutton to injury. He was averaging 9.2 minutes and 2.7 rebounds per game. His absence means more of Markus Kennedy and JayVaughn Pinkston.

Keys to the Game

  1. Mouphtaou Yarou vs Ricardo Ratliffe. 'Cardo has been incredibly efficient so far this season (13.9 points on 74% FG shooting), but he quickly got into foul trouble against California, and he could again here. If he stays on the court and can at least come close to matching Yarou on the glass, it is hard to see 'Nova's backcourt doing enough to win with the way Mizzou has been playing on the perimeter.

  2. BCI! BCI! Villanova holds the advantage on the glass, but if the ball control battle goes as it appears it might, this possibly won't matter. The single biggest advantage either team has in this game is the simple fact that Mizzou doesn't turn the ball over, and Villanova doesn't force turnovers. Pass well, and hold onto the ball ... and you probably win. That's almost always the case, of course.

  3. Keep It Up. The way Missouri has been playing over the last five games, very few teams in the country would be able to hang with them. It has been incredible. It also probably won't last the entire season, at least not with some valleys along the way. If they shoot, play defense, and break even on the boards the way they have been, they should handle 'Nova. Do they keep it up in their first trip outside of the central time zone?


Ken Pomeroy's projections say 79-72 Mizzou, and that sounds about right to me. I'd love to win every game by 30, but at some point Mizzou is going to cool off, or run into foul trouble, or encounter some general adversity they haven't had to deal with just yet. But they're still good enough to win this game even if they aren't clicking on all cylinders. Win this one, and you're 11-0 when Braggin' Rights rolls around. That sounds pretty good to me.