basketball Edit

Game Preview: Ohio

On Saturday, Villanova will look to get back on track following Wednesday’s thorough beating at the hands of Ohio State when they host another Ohio team, the Bobcats of Ohio University.

The Bobcats are off to a 3-0 start with wins over St. Bonaventure, Heidelberg, and Iona.

Ohio boasts some impressive numbers through three games this season, averaging 78 points per game on 51.2 percent shooting and 45.9 percent from three while dishing out 19 assists per game. Defensively, the Bobcats allow 58.3 points per game while swiping 8.3 steals. One traditional metric where they have faltered is on the glass, as they average just 33.7 rebounds per game.

The KenPom numbers certainly back up those impressive numbers, particularly on the offensive end. The Bobcats rank 7th in effective field goal percentage, 15th in three-point percentage, and 42nd in two-point percentage. Defensively, they rank 43rd in opponent’s three-point percentage and 23rd in steal percentage. However, they rank just 280th in offensive rebounding percentage and 263rd in opponent’s offensive rebounding percentage. Also, Ohio has had trouble with turnovers, ranking 271st in turnover percentage. And the Bobcats’ top two contributors have played a significant role in the turnover issues, which we’ll touch on shortly.

Ohio is led by electric sophomore guard Jason Preston, who has posted big numbers through three games this season. Preston is averaging 18 points, 9.7 assists, nine rebounds and three steals. He’s shooting 53.8 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three. I don’t care who you are, where you’re playing, or who you are playing, those are incredible numbers. However, he has committed four turnovers per game.

Forward Ben Vander Plas adds 14 points, five rebounds, three assists and 1.7 steals. He’s connecting on 65.2 percent of his field goal attempts and has knocked down 6-8 attempts from beyond the arc. Like Preston, he’s been susceptible to turnovers, averaging five per game.

Guard Jordan Dartis rounds out the double-figure scorers for the Bobcats, averaging 13.7 points. He adds 2.3 rebounds, two assists, and 1.7 steals. He’s been Ohio’s most voluminous three-point shooter and has connected on 34.6 percent.

Guard Lunden McDay (9.3 points), forward Sylvester Ogbonda (6.7) and center Nolan Foster (6.7 points) make up the rest of the key contributors for the Bobcats. Forwards Nate Springs and Mason McMurray each average over 11 minutes per game as well, contributing 4.7 and four points respectively.

The Bobcats have been incredibly efficient, ranking in the 91st percentile per Synergy Sports. And it’s hard to identify a weak spot for them offensively, as all eight Bobcats who have at least 10 qualifying possessions carry a rating of “good” or better.

The strong shooting leads the way for the Bobcats, as they generate 1.377 points per possession on spot-ups, ranking in the 99th percentile. They can run the pick and roll, having particular success using the roll man, and have been lethal using cuts as well. They’ve been less effective in the post, and least effective when using non-P/R screeners.

Dartis and Vander Plas have been the most effective spot-up shooters. Preston is good in that category as well, but spot-ups have only accounted for 7.2 percent of his offense (compared to 21.7 percent for each Dartis and Vader Plas).

Most of Preston’s offense has come in transition and as the pick and roll ballhandler.

Foster and Vander Plas have thrived off motion, posting solid numbers both as cutters and as roll men in the pick and roll. Ogbonda has been effective through motion as well.

Preston and Dartis have been successful in isolation.

Defensively, the Bobcats have defended shooters quite well, and have also been strong defending the pick and roll, the post, and in transition. They’ve struggled defending the roll man in the pick and roll, cutters, and isolation.

Individually, Preston has been the most attackable defender, earning an “average” rating surrendering 0.778 PPP. Every other qualifying defender gets a rating of “very good” or “excellent.”

None of this sounds like particularly good news for Villanova. The ‘Cats have struggled to defend and Ohio has versatile offensive weapons. ‘Nova’s shooting has been up and down and Ohio has been impressive defending the perimeter. Meanwhile, the Wildcats don’t have an ideal candidate to attack one of the bigger weaknesses of the Ohio defense, isolations.

As I really didn’t like what I was seeing from the numbers, I tried to find some video in an attempt to figure out how much stock we can put in the numbers and to see how all of the data was actually playing out on the court, but there wasn’t a whole lot available from this season.

It’s fair to question the size of the numbers considering the Bobcats’ opposition so far, but what remains concerning is how the numbers relate to things Villanova does well and struggles with.

Turnovers and rebounding are going to be imperative. Giving away the ball played a huge role in the ‘Cats falling behind against Ohio State and it needs to be cleaned up. The Bobcats have been good at taking the ball away. At the other end, Ohio has been prone to giving the ball up and if the ‘Cats can play a cleaner game, there could be an opportunity to get some extra possessions.

Despite having some size (Foster, Ogbonda, and Springs are all 6-10) it hasn’t translated to success on the glass. Villanova needs to make the trend continue. Giving Ohio extra opportunities could be disastrous while generating extra looks could go a long way if Villanova’s shooting woes continue.

You would think that Villanova should be able to win this game easily, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that a lot of Ohio’s strengths correlate with ‘Nova weaknesses and that Villanova doesn’t appear positioned to explicitly attack Ohio’s weaknesses.

I think Saddiq Bey, Collin Gillespie, Justin Moore, and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl will be the keys for ‘Nova on Saturday. If the first three can shoot reasonably well and mix in some rim attacking and JRE can hit a couple from outside while doing work in the post, ‘Nova will be in good shape.

The national media has had a field day comparing the Ohio State game to last year’s Michigan game, and have naturally carried that comparison to what happened following the Michigan game, which we all remember was a frustrating loss to Furman. Obviously, the ‘Cats want to avoid a repeat there and to get back on track as quickly as possible. To do so, they can’t overlook the Bobcats.