Villanova Basketball

Villanova Basketball: 5 Ways Wildcats Must Improve Before March

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 12, 2014

Villanova Basketball: 5 Ways Wildcats Must Improve Before March

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    Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

    The Villanova Wildcats currently sit at 21-2 overall and 9-1 in Big East play, which means there are not many flaws in Jay Wright's team this year. 

    However, there are a few things that Wright and the Wildcats could work on as they enter their final run into the postseason. 

    Here is a look at five things that Villanova must improve on as March rapidly approaches.

Improve Free-Throw Shooting

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    Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

    Every postseason, there is one team that fails to make free throws during the end of a game, ruining its postseason dream in the process.

    While the Wildcats are not a terrible team at the line, they could use some improvement. 

    As a whole, Villanova has a 72.1 free-throw shooting percentage, while no player averages over 80 percent. 

    Two players, James Bell (79.7) and Dylan Ennis (79.5), are close to that 80 percent mark. However, there are a few players that shoot worse than the team average, including Darrun Hilliard (67.6), Josh Hart (64.2) and Daniel Ochefu (59.1). 

    For the Wildcats to avoid any hiccups in close games during March, they must have all of their players improve their free-throw percentage.

Play Tighter Three-Point Defense

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    Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    As we all know, Villanova struggled mightily with its three-point defense against Creighton back on January 20. 

    With the likes of Ethan Wragge and Doug McDermott about to line up on the opposite end of the court again on Sunday, the Wildcats must be aware of where both players are, especially when they move beyond the three-point line. 

    As the Wildcats march further into the postseason, they will surely take on teams with multiple three-point shooters, and they must be able to defend them.

    Sunday's showdown in Omaha will be the first major test since the defeat to Creighton, where the Wildcats will be tested in a major way from three-point range. 

    If the Wildcats pass that initial test on the road at the CenturyLink Center, they will have plenty of confidence that they can defend against other strong shooting teams when they begin postseason play.

Have the Guards Protect the Ball More

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    Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    One statistic that sticks out when you analyze the numbers of the Wildcats is the turnovers per game for the main ball-handlers. 

    Darrun Hilliard leads the team with 2.3 turnovers per game, while James Bell (1.9), JayVaughn Pinkston (1.8) and Ryan Arcidiacono (1.2) all have a high number as well.

    While this may seem like nitpicking a bit, the turnover issue is one that needs to be cut down just a smidge before the Big East and NCAA tournaments roll around. 

    As a team, the Wildcats average 12 turnovers per game, which isn't a bad number. However, it could be better. 

Make the Road Games a Bit More Easy

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    Laurence Kesterson/Associated Press

    Going on the road in conference play is no easy task and that has been shown by Villanova as three of its last four road victories have come by 10 points or less. 

    Building a big lead and avoiding an upset is not as easy as it sounds, but if the Wildcats want to move into the upper echelon of dominant title contenders, they must flex some muscle on their travels in the last month of the regular season.

    After the Creighton game, Villanova will face just two more road trips to Providence and Xavier.

    If Wright and company come away with double-digit victories from both of those games, they will have made a statement to the rest of the nation that they can control play against teams that will play deep into March. 

Improve in Defensive Stat Categories

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    Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

    Before its Wednesday road trip to DePaul, Villanova sits beneath the top 100 in both steals and blocks per game. 

    The Wildcats are 101st in the nation in steals per game with 6.9, while they have 4.3 blocks per game, which puts them 105th out of the 351 teams in Division I. 

    Blocks and steals can lead to transition opportunities, a part of the game that the Wildcats do well in because of their speed. 

    With that in mind, it would not hurt the Wildcats if they attempted to improve on those numbers before it's too late.

     

    Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

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