Championship Recap: Villanova Beats UNC

Posted by on April 7, 2016

The 2016 NCAA championship game will forever be remembered for Kris Jenkins’ buzzer beater. Probably the next biggest storyline was the breakout performance from Phil Booth down the stretch. The sophomore guard hit some extremely difficult shots late in the game to maintain a lead for the Wildcats.
However, before the heroics of Booth and Jenkins, an unlikely source of offense kept Villanova within striking distance of UNC. Much was discussed prior to the game about UNC’s huge size advantage. In fact, I even tweeted¬†about the topic. Going into the championship game,¬†98% of UNC possessions had featured a lineup with 2 players at least 6’8″ on the court. Compared to just 5% of Villanova possessions.
Despite this size difference, it was the post-up that kept Villanova in the game in the first half against UNC. Shockingly, the three-point heavy Wildcats scored 19 points off of post-ups in the first half on Monday (either baskets, fouls, or direct assists). For more perspective, Villanova averaged 10.5 points per game from post-ups on the season (52nd in the country).
The following is a chart of succesful Villanova post-ups throughout the championship game:
The 25 points Villanova scored off post-ups is more than any team in the country averaged per game on the season. I wrote prior to the Final Four about Villanova’s decrease in three-point attempts over the course of the season. And to be sure the post-ups didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. For example, Jay Wright has frequently looked to post-up guard Ryan Arcidiacono early in games all season. Still, the effectiveness of the post-ups was a pretty huge surprise when considering the length of UNC’s frontcourt.
Perhaps because of this length, UNC chose to play the post completely straight up. Rarely did a UNC off-ball defender stunt or dig on post touches (let alone trap). This obviously gave Villanova players room to operate inside. Four out of five Villanova starters (minus Jalen Brunson) scored on post-ups in the first half alone.
The following is a video of all 12 successful Villanova post-ups in sequential order:

The post-ups accounted for 56% of Villanova’s first half points. On the season, post-ups accounted for just 13% of the Wildcat offense. As you can see from the video above, it wasn’t the case of attacking mismatches off switches. Villanova players simply took their man one-on-one down low, often hitting pretty difficult shots (especially the Hart and Jenkins fadeaways).
The nationals champs were a largely misunderstood team for most of the season. An early season reliance on shooting a high volume of threes (perhaps combined with Jay Wright’s previous history) disguised a diverse offense capable of scoring in plenty of different ways. The game will forever be remembered for the buzzer beater, but it was post-ups that kept the UNC lead at five at half instead of double digits.

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