Villanova has dominated for the last four seasons winning 88% of their games – the highest win% of any D1 program. This is a huge jump from their win% in the three prior seasons, when they won just 55% of their games. Now, this season, they are undefeated with a 10-0 record.
Safe to say that Jay Wright’s found the formula.
Wright knew that to win he needed to make strategic changes to their offense. Shooting improvements were made from all levels as 2P% and 3P% both saw increases. More importantly, the shot distribution changed. They went from shooting just 1.2% more 3s per FGA than the D1 average to 8.7% more than the average from 2014-17.
They are still reaping the rewards from this transformation as one of seven remaining undefeated teams and are #1 in the AP and Coaches polls. Much of their success is from just one lineup – their version of the Warriors’ well acclaimed “Death Lineup”. It features Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth, Donte DiVincenzo, Mikal Bridges, and Omari Spellman.
In analyzing their game data this season, excluding garbage time, the “Nova Death Lineup” has a net rating (or Points Per Possession margin) of +.56 when they are on the court and all other lineups are +.24. A net rating of +.24 for all other lineups is very good, but a lineup with a +.56 is beyond remarkable. The key to this lineup’s success is the deep ball – they shot it 12% better than all other Villanova lineups and 15% better than their opposing lineups.
It’s no surprise that this lineup is shooting lights out from beyond the arc. They are the ideal small ball lineup as they range from 6’2” to 6’8” and all five are shooting over 38% from 3. That said, this lineup and their other lineups are not as successful without the best 2-way player in college basketball – Mikal Bridges.
The junior forward is playing at a Naismith Player of the Year level averaging 18.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.1 steals, and 1.3 blocks – all are career highs. Bridges value can also be seen in on/off court data. With him on the court they have a +.35 net rating, highest on the team, compared to a -.08 net rating with him off the court.
His impact on his teammates’ performance is clear. The graphic below shows the net rating for each player when they are on the court with Bridges and without him. Five of the seven rotation players have a negative net rating without him and DiVincenzo is barely positive at +.03.
This team will head into the NCAA tournament as a #1 seed and a favorite to win it all. Any team that wants to knock off Villanova will need an answer for Mikal Bridges, the “Nova Death Lineup”, and Wright’s transformed offense.
*Note: All on court/off court data excludes garbage time data.