The Wildcats got off to a slow start for the season, and everyone blamed it on the youth and inexperience of the team. However, when Big East play began, the team rattled off 11 straight wins, and all problems seemed to be solved. Those problems have reappeared. After disheartening losses against St. John’s and Georgetown, Villanova fans are left wondering what are the problems ailing the team and how can they be fixed. Let’s take a look at the veteran leaders: Phil Booth and Eric Paschall.

You may look at the win-loss splits and determine that the blame falls on the two stars. However, the burden placed on Booth and Paschall is immense, especially when the team is struggling to find consistent offense. In fact, the duo has one of the largest impacts on their respective teams in the context of the NCAA.

TeamTop-Scoring DuosPointsTeam
Scoring
Share of
Team
Scoring
DukeZion Williamson
and R.J. Barrett
45.186.452.2%
GonzagaRui Hachimura
and Brandon Clarke
37.090.241.0%
VirginiaKyle Guy
and Ty Jerome
30.271.842.1%
KentuckyP.J. Washington and
Keldon Johnson
28.878.236.8%
TennesseeGrant Williams and
Admiral Schofield
35.683.742.5%
NevadaCaleb Martin and
Jordan Caroline
37.882.545.8%
MichiganIgnas Brazdeikis and
Charles Matthews
27.770.439.3%
UNCCam Johnson and
Coby White
32.087.536.6%
HoustonCorey Davis Jr. and
Armoni Brooks
29.875.439.5%
Michigan St.Cassius Winston
and Nick Ward
33.680.641.7%
MarquetteMarkus Howard
and Sam Hauser
40.879.051.6%
KansasDedric Lawson and
Lagerald Vick
33.376.943.3%
LSUTremont Waters
and Naz Reid
29.782.935.8%
Texas TechJarrett Culver and
Davide Moretti
28.671.540.0%
PurdueCarsen Edwards
and Ryan Cline
36.076.647.0%
Florida St.Mfiondu Kabengele
and Terance Mann
25.177.232.5%
VillanovaPhil Booth and
Eric Paschall
35.675.847.0%
LouisvilleJordan Nwora and
Dwayne Sutton
28.477.436.7%
Iowa St.Marial Shayok and
Talen Horton-Tucker
31.378.539.9%
Virginia TechNickeil Alexander-
Walker and Kerry
Blackshear Jr.
31.074.741.5%
IowaTyler Cook and
Luka Garza
29.080.536.0%
WisconsinEthan Happ and
D’Mitrik Trice
30.469.943.5%
Kansas St.Barry Brown and
Dean Wade
29.465.844.7%
MarylandAnthony Cowan and
Bruno Fernando
30.372.541.8%
BuffaloC.J. Massinburg
and Nick Perkins
32.185.937.4%

The table examines the top two scorers on each team in the AP Top 25 poll and their relative impact to their teams. The Wildcats’ star duo, Phil Booth and Eric Paschall, total 35.6 points per game, which equates to 47.0% of the team’s scoring. There are only three other scoring duos that match or exceed Phil Booth and Eric Paschall’s share of their team’s scoring burden. Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett account for 52.2% of Duke’s points, Markus Howard and Sam Hauser pitch in 51.6% of Marquette’s points, and Purdue’s Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline add 47.0%.

TeamDuoShare of
Team Scoring
Duo FG%Rest of
Team Scoring
DukeZion Williamson
and R.J. Barrett
52.2%56.7%49.8%
MarquetteMarkus Howard
and Sam Hauser
51.6%45.7%47.7%
PurdueCarsen Edwards
and Ryan Cline
47.0%41.3%47.3
VillanovaPhil Booth and
Eric Paschall
47.0%45.1%45.4%

In the table above, we take a look at the scoring burden of each due to their respective team. The most fascinating statistic is the last column, which shows the team’s scoring efficiency taking out the top two players. The Villanova players outside of Booth and Paschall perform dramatically lower than the other three teams that depend the most on their stars with Villanova’s field goal percentage at 45.4% compared to the next lowest of 47.3%. That may not seem like a huge difference, but that just adds to the pressure Booth and Paschall endure.

To understand the amount of pressure Booth and Pachall face and the quality of shots they are able to take, let’s look at their shot charts.

Phil Booth’s 2018-2019 Shot Chart

Courtesy of the Stepien

The most striking observation is the number of deep or NBA 3s that Booth takes (and makes). 107 out Booth’s 248 shots have come from behind an NBA 3-point line (the dashed white line in the visual is the NBA 3-point line), which amounts to 43.1% of his shots. The optimistic point of view is that he is quite efficient from that deep at 36.4%, exceeding the NBA’s league average of 35.4%. However, Booth is forced into these shots because defenses swarm him, possibly doubling him, because they are willing to give space to the other Wildcats to shoot in order to limit Booth. Most defenses generally guard within or right on the 3-point line; for Booth, he is being guarded a few feet beyond the 3-point line, making every bucket a struggle.

Eric Paschall’s 2018-2019 Shot Chart

Courtesy of The Stepien

Paschall’s shot chart tells a similar story: he shot 83 out of 221 from behind the NBA 3-point arc or 37.6% of his field goal attempts. Paschall shot 38.6% on NBA 3-pointers, which is also above-average for NBA players. Though Paschall is more physically punishing on his defenders, allowing him to get to his spots better, his defenders force him far away from the hoop. He often encounters a second or third defender on his drives, compelling him to kick the ball out or retreat.

How can the coaching staff and other Wildcats ease Booth and Paschall’s burden?

One strategy Villanova could implement is off-ball movement and screen-setting. Whenever Booth or Paschall have the ball, the defense’s focus mostly rests on them. Villanova could punish defenders’ attention or help on the star Wildcats by increasing movement on the weak side. When Booth or Paschall drive, the other Wildcats need to move and set screens so that there are easy passing lanes to kick out to for 3-pointers. Villanova could use at least three types of screens for off-ball players: pindown, flare, or stagger. A pindown screen faces the basket and the beneficiary of the screen interprets their defender to determine whether they should shoot (if the defender goes under the screen) or drive (if the defender goes over the screen). A flare screen faces the top of the arc in order to free up the beneficiary of the screen to the corner. A stagger screen is two players set a screen facing the same direction, which generally creates confusion among the three defenders involved. If Villanova could set these types of screens, especially for sharpshooters Collin Gillespie and Joe Cremo, the offense could get a lot more open 3-point shots.

Pindown
Flare
Stagger

Another way Villanova can limit Booth and Paschall load is to provide the younger players some more play-making opportunities. It has been an ongoing mystery why Jahvon Quinerly has not played more minutes and opportunities to showcase his talents. Quinerly was known for his quickness and ball-handling skills coming out of high school. Also, Gillespie displays the level of basketball intelligence to initiate the offense. In addition to that, Saddiq Bey has grown throughout the season; the coaching staff could design some plays to facilitate his strength and athleticism against smaller defenders. As the regular season draws to an end and teams learn how Villanova plays, it is increasingly important to diversify the offense. Opponents in the Big East tournament and the NCAA tournament will leverage their defenses to limit Booth and Paschall as much as possible. Villanova will need to put the ball in the hands of other Wildcats in favorable situations.

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