Sunday, February 21, 2010

More on Villanova's fouls

Last week I had a throw-away comment that Villanova’s foul differential in the Connecticut game was a product of being behind. Ever one to look at things more carefully, John Gasaway posted the next day that Villanova is engaged in a suicidal level of fouling this season. Of course, he’s right. But consider this. Compare Villanova to a team with similar height and bench minutes, in this case Cincinnati.

Average Opponent FT Rate in Big East Wins: 30.9
Average Opponent FT Rate in Big East Losses: 44.6

Cincinnati displays the normal pattern. You foul a little more in your losses than in your wins. But look at the numbers for Villanova:

Average Opponent FT Rate in Big East Wins: 47.3
Average Opponent FT Rate in Big East Losses: 86.5

Even when winning, Villanova fouls at a ridiculously high level. Villanova fouls more in wins than Cincinnati does in losses.

But the real jaw-dropping number is that in losses they foul at nearly twice the rate. When Villanova falls behind, the whistles start flying. (As further evidence, remember that in their comeback win over Louisville, where Villanova trailed substantially, the free throw rate against was 75.0.) Is this a product of wanting to extend the game when you have such a potent offense? Is this a fluke because Villanova has so few losses? Who knows? But when Villanova falls behind, the games get ugly quickly.

By the way which was more surprising in Nova’s loss to Pitt on Sunday?
-Leading by 4 with 45 seconds left, Ashton Gibbs missed two free throws.
-Trailing by 4 with 40 seconds left, Scottie Reynolds threw a pass that was intercepted by Ashton Gibbs.
Gibbs missing a free throw is rare, but Reynolds making a mistake in crunch time was equally shocking.

What was going on at the end of the Marquette vs Cincinnati game? Why were Yancy Gates and Lance Stephenson out for large stretches? With an NCAA bid on the line, Mick Cronin had more faith in Cashmere Wright and Rashad Bishop. Sadly the Cincinnati Post no longer has a sports staff, so I’m having trouble finding an explanation. But on the Bearcats own site, Cronin simply says that both Gates and Stephenson were struggling so he didn’t feel comfortable having them in the game. Wow.