The St John’s Red Storm beat Villanova this year — 79–75. St John’s shot 40 percent from the three; Villanova shot 24 percent (8–33). Everything else was the same statistically but for that number. In fact, Villanova’s big three — Bridges, Brunson, and DiVincenzo — were 3–21 from the three. V
Villanova averages 87 points per game. They shoot 40 percent from beyond the arc. They launch about 30 per game. This is how they beat you — with the deep shot. They play very good defense, they rebound, they are disciplined and they share the ball, but mostly, they shoot and make that shot. St John’s won the game mostly because the advantage Nova usually has was not an advantage that night. Nova made 8 threes; St John’s made 6. That is only 6 points.
I am not sure this works for Michigan tonight but it is one path to victory. Contest the three, drag their percentage down, defend, rebound, don’t turn the ball over too much, be efficient, and, hit a few threes yourself. If they shoot 30 shoot and make their average, they will make 12. You would hope they shoot below average and launch too many. It is very subtle but just a few misses against St. John’s from the three, turned the game. If you think this makes no sense, consider two games later, Providence beat Villanova 76–71, and the Wildcats shot 15 percent from the three (3–20). Coach Berlien would be wise to expect that not to happen tonight.
The other way to beat Nova is to match their threes. Creighton beat Nova 89–83 this year and Creighton hit 12 threes. Nova did as well but it took them 39 shots; Creighton only took 29 threes. That could be called an efficiency advantage. The thinking is, if you match the threes you have neutralized their advantage. Now, it is a fair game.
Michigan shoots a lot of threes too but mostly they play good defense and don’t foul playing it (takes away those free throws) and they play a very deliberate offense. Michigan shoots 36 percent from the three point line which they might need to increase tonight to have a shot. Michigan shoots only about 25 threes per game.
Here is the big hurt for Big Blue: Michigan also only scores 74 points per game. You see where this is headed. Michigan needs a score like the Providence or St.John’s game. In the 70’s. The Creighton game only worked because Creighton was on fire that night.
But Coach Berlien is a heady coach. Years ago, I remember his West Virginia squad almost knocked off Louisville, a better team, with a first half carpet bombing from three. Maybe he has a trick up his sleeve. Maybe Mo Wagner has a Christian Laettner type night where he doesn’t miss a shot. Maybe Villanova has an off night after the fire storm they unleashed on Kansas the other night.
Maybe is a complex word.