No. 1 Villanova lacks depth, not just defense, in first loss of season

Villanova Butler Basketball
Butler forward Kelan Martin (30) shoots between Villanova defenders Donte DiVincenzo (10) and Mikal Bridges (25) during the first half of the Bulldogs’ upset of the No. 1-ranked Wildcats at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

No team is built to overcome 20-point deficits. When it happens, it occurs by chance as much as design.

A team that is so good that it has no concerns about going down 20 probably should never be in that situation in the first place.

When Villanova was down by 23 points with about 10 1/2 remaining in its 101-93 loss at Butler on Saturday, the Wildcats would have needed some serious cooperation from the Bulldogs to have mounted a full comeback.

‘Nova made a spirited effort, but Saturday’s 101-93 loss at Hinkle Fieldhouse highlighted a season-long concern — a lack of depth.

After losing freshmen Colin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels to hand injuries, Villanova basically had a six-man rotation against Butler and 200 minutes is a lot to divide among six guys, especially when you are forced to expend extra energy by using full-court pressure to address a big deficit.

Against Butler, Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson, Eric Paschall, Phil Booth and Donte DiVincenzo all played more than 30 minutes, while Omari Spellman logged 24. Coming in, only Bridges and Brunson averaged at least 30 minutes.

Tired legs are prone to induce physical and/or mental errors at critical moments. It was no secret why Villanova missed some crucial shots and were a step late on some defensive rotations late in the game.

Villanova got just eight combined minutes from freshman Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree and redshirt sophomore Tim Delaney. That won’t be enough going forward.

“We’ll get Dhamir Crosby-Roundtree more acclimated and Tim Delaney more acclimated,” coach Jay Wright said. “We definitely could have used (Gillespie and Samuels) but every team has some issues. You’ve got to find a way to do it.

“We got down so quick I was most worried about not letting it get to being down by 20. I was trying to keep it to five or six and then use those guys. I’ve got to do a better job of getting those guys in there.”

Where did Butler’s offensive outburst come from?

Butler came into the game tied for 97th in the country in scoring offense, at 78.6 points per game.

Villanova had not yielded 100 points since Creighton scored 101 on Feb. 16, 2014.

In 560 games on the Mainline, Wright has had teams give up 100 points just four times: against Butler, Creighton, Georgetown (2010) and the University of the Redlands (2003). Yes, Redlands, a Division III school located about 65 miles east of Los Angeles that hosted Villanova as its first-ever Division I opponent. The Wildcats scored 114, Redlands scored 103.

All but Creighton have a bulldog as the mascot.

Butler does it to Villanova again

Last season Butler joined Creighton (2013-14) as the only team to sweep Villanova in Big East play since the conference realigned to its current membership in 2013.

Now the Bulldogs are the first Big East team to beat Villanova three consecutive times since Pittsburgh won the last of six straight games before leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference after the 2012-13 season.

Butler, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Loyola (Ill.), Minnesota and North Carolina State are the only programs with active winning streaks of at least three games against Villanova.