During Villanova’s run to the national title in 2016, the Wildcats relied heavily on a formula that called for a heavy dose of 3-point shooting.
In the NCAA tournament that year, the Wildcats shot an incredible 50 percent from deep and averaged 9.3 3-pointers per game. It’s why they cut down the nets.
To no surprise, it’s been more of the same since then. And for the most part, it’s worked. The No. 3-ranked Wildcats were 55-6 since winning the title going into Wednesday’s game at Providence and had made at least four 3-pointers in 83 straight games.
It was only a matter of time, though, before that streak came to an end. It finally did Wednesday, as the Wildcats finished just 3-of-20 from 3-point range in a 76-71 loss — their second defeat in three games since starting the season 22-1.
The Wildcats trailed for most of the game and each time it seemed like they started to make a run, especially in the second half, no one was there to knock down a key 3. Guard Phil Booth‘s absence since fracturing his right hand late last month has clearly had an impact on their depth, but even without him, games against St. John’s and Providence should wind up in the win column — regardless of where they’re played.
Is it time to worry? Sure.
The worrying was justified more than a week ago, when they were the No. 1-ranked team in the country before losing to St. John’s. But without a clear-cut favorite, Villanova still figures to be one of the teams that can get hot a make a run to the Final Four.
The Wildcats entered the game averaging 11.5 made 3-pointers per game (No. 3 in Division I) and averaged 40.8 percent from deep (No. 4 among major conference teams). If they’re able to shoot close to their average in March, they’ll be fine.
Before Booth’s injury, the Wildcats were already heavily reliant on Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges, but without Booth their margin for error is smaller. When Brunson and Bridges both fouled out within four seconds of each other in the final two minutes, it was a wrap.
Of course, had Villanova simply hit a couple more 3s, this game could have finished differently and the conversation would be significantly different headed into Saturday’s key game at No. 4 Xavier.