Villanova's winning ensemble

ASSOCIATED PRESS Villanova coach Jay Wright talks with his team, which is 15-1.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Villanova coach Jay Wright talks with his team, which is 15-1.
Posted: January 16, 2014

DID ANYBODY see this Villanova season coming?

What we thought no longer matters. The reality is that Jay Wright's team is among the best in the country and has been all season.

There are no superstars or even really what would be considered stars. There is just a nine-player rotation that fits together seamlessly, plays with uncommon passion, defends on every possession, gets to the foul line, takes any reasonable three (and some that probably would be less than reasonable for many teams) and overwhelms teams with bodies and effort.

Consider that there are six players who average between eight and 16 points and nine who average between 11 and 31 minutes. Unlike some other teams who are going to start wearing down as we hit February and March, Villanova really should not have that problem.

These Wildcats (15-1) are efficient on offense (1.16 points per possession, 22rd nationally) and defense (.906 ppp, seventh nationally). They are deadly inside the arc (54.1 percent on twos, 16th nationally) and get 33 percent of their points from the arc.

So, how exactly do you defend them or attack them? The answer, other than the one Syracuse gave, is that you don't.

The next 3 weeks are an intriguing test as the 'Cats are on a Saturday-Monday schedule, including a road weekend at Marquette and Georgetown. In fact, if you close your eyes and think ahead to late March, you can imagine this Villanova team playing a similar schedule of games (maybe Thursday-Saturday or Friday-Sunday for 2 weeks) and then if you really want to dream big, one final Saturday-Monday run at a huge dome in Arlington, Texas, in April.

The efficient Hawks

Saint Joseph's has been much more pleasing to watch than the last few seasons. The difference? Ball and player movement on offense.

The ball no longer gets stuck with one player and bounced endlessly. Instead, the ball moves side to side, the spacing is excellent and SJU has been scoring much more efficiently.

After scoring 84 points on just 73 possessions at George Mason on Saturday, SJU is now getting 1.13 points per possession, 36th nationally. Only one Hawks offense in the last decade has been more efficient. And that was the 2007-08 Hawks, which just happens to be the last SJU team to make the NCAA.

Sad situation at Drexel

When I watched Drexel play in the first few weeks of the season, I thought the Dragons had a chance to be really good. Then, players began to go down, they became easier to defend and now nothing is guaranteed.

Bruiser Flint's team has had a few amazing seasons that went unrewarded by the NCAA Selection Committee. The only way the Dragons are getting to the 2014 tournament is by winning the CAA Tournament.

I was trying to think of a school with a similar profile that, over the last decade, has wins over schools like Syracuse, Louisville, Villanova, Creighton and Alabama and close losses to similar high-profile teams. I could not come up with any.

Bo's best yet

Chester's Bo Ryan recently won his 690th college basketball game. And he may have the best team he's ever coached.

Wisconsin is not just winning games. The Badgers are crushing teams, taking away their will to compete. It is not that they are playing much faster (just 64.5 possessions, 312th nationally), but they almost never turn it over, don't foul and are overwhelming teams with great ball movement and uncanny three-point shooting.

Wisconsin turns it over on just 12.7 percent of its possessions, shoots nearly 40 percent from the arc and is getting nearly 40 percent of its points from three.

Which means the opponent is playing a lot more defense than offense and ends way too many defensive possessions taking the ball out of the basket after a made three. That is demoralizing.

Florida high flyers

Yes, that is Florida Gulf Coast leading the Atlantic Sun with a 4-1 record. Last seen around these parts throwing down dunks and crushing Georgetown and San Diego State at the Wells Fargo Center, FGC and new coach Joe Dooley (the former Kansas assistant) are still dunking with those passes from point guard Brett Comer to Chase Fieler. Unlike last season, the Eagles have even found a way to beat Lipscomb.

As for former coach Andy Enfield, he is at Southern California where it is not going so well on the court. In its first three Pac-12 games, USC has lost 107-73 to UCLA, 79-60 to Arizona State and 73-53 to No. 1 Arizona.

Enfield, however, will be just fine. He is married to a former model. He is making a lot of money. He is in Los Angeles. He will get players. And he will win, maybe even big. What recruit could watch that highlight tape from last March and not want to commit?

The freshmen

Jabari Parker (Duke), Julius Randle (Kentucky), Andrew Wiggins (Kansas) and Aaron Gordon (Arizona) arrived on the scene with major hype and have, for the most part, played right to it. That squad, however, needs a point guard. If you have not seen Syracuse's Tyler Ennis, do yourself a favor and watch. He is sensational.

He is not a big scorer, but runs the team like a senior and sees the floor like somebody who understands basketball angles and how to use them. He has 91 assists and 22 turnovers.

This and that

* La Salle’s offense is starting to look like La Salle’s offense used to look now that Tyreek Duren’s feet are feeling better. Duren is getting places off the bounce again so the Explorers’ shooters are more open. And they are making threes, 19-for-42 in two Atlantic 10 games. La Salle has won 18 straight games when making nine or more threes.

* If you are looking for a potential early-round NCAA upset team, look no farther than Southland leader Stephen F. Austin (15-2). SFA already has seven road wins. Last season, the Lumberjacks lost in their league’s championship game by two points and then lost at Stanford by a single point in the NIT.

* The Big 12, with Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Kansas, Baylor and Kansas State, looks very good when you watch those teams play. Looks even better when you realize the league is 102-26 in nonconference games, with eight wins over the Top 25.

* Not sure about this, but in the era of the double transfer (graduate students can transfer and play immediately), I wonder if Mike Moser could become the first player who will total 1,000 points, but at three different schools. He scored nine points in just 70 minutes as a UCLA freshman before transferring to UNLV. He scored 690 points in two seasons there. He is now having a very nice season at Oregon where he is averaging 14.6 points. He has scored 233 points so far this season so he needs 68 more points for 1,000.

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