AFTER LOSING at Virginia, 86-75, Saturday, Villanova's two defeats are against America's most efficient offensive team (the Cavaliers were at their efficient best) and the country's second-best three-point shooting team (Oklahoma). Wildcats coach Jay Wright wanted to test his team in the nonconference, hoping the experiences would help when the games matter most in mid-March. He has definitely done that.
The Wildcats (8-2) would have beaten a lot of teams with an offense that scored 75 points in a 60-possession game - just not this particular team on its court when it hardly missed from anywhere.
Virginia (9-1) was 26-for-46 overall, 8-for-12 from the arc and 26-for-30 from the foul line. The rebounding differential (31-19 for UVa) is mildly concerning, but was mostly a function of so few missed shots.
The Wildcats shot 26-for-53 (49.1 percent), 10-for-26 from the arc and 13-for-17 from the line. Those shooting numbers and 17 assists against 10 turnovers would be good enough to beat about 340 Division I opponents.
Kris Jenkins had 23 for 'Nova, but Virginia's big three played very big. Antonio Gill (22), Malcolm Brogdon (20) and London Perrantes (19) combined for those 61 points on just 27 shots while also going 24-for-26 from the line.
The Cavs got a working margin midway through the second half when they scored 14 straight points. The Wildcats closed, but every time Virginia needed to score, it did.
Given how strong the Big East is at the top this season, the 'Cats are almost certainly going to lose more than the two games they lost in the 2014-15 regular season. But the games that became the first two losses this season were never about the regular season anyway.
Saint Joseph's was winning because its veterans got better and its newcomers added much-needed depth and talent. The Hawks were also having early success despite being one of the country's worst three-point shooting teams, 46 of 177 (26 percent) going into its game at Hagan Arena against Illinois State.
SJU (8-2) is not likely to shoot 15-for-33 from the arc again this season like it did in its 79-65 win, but something in the 35 percent range will do most games, given what else this team has going for it.
DeAndré Bembry is quite advanced in every basketball skill - except shooting. If the Hawks' junior star starts making jump shots on a regular basis, he will become unguardable. He came into the game shooting just 5-for-33 from the arc. He was 4-for-6 from three against Illinois State (5-7) on his way to a typical line - 16 points, nine rebounds, seven assists.
Isaiah Miles, having a wonderful senior season, also had 16 for the Hawks, who blew the game open late in the first and led 45-26 at the break. The Hawks' nonconference success is going to put them in postseason conversation if they can get into the upper echelon of an Atlantic 10 that has had more than a few big noncon wins.
Temple's offense has not been functioning at a high level yet and it did not function that way in a 78-63 win over Delaware State (0-11) at the Liacouras Center. If you think John Chaney when you watch the Owls (5-5) these days, there is a good reason. Temple is No. 2 nationally in lowest turnover percentage, just behind Davidson and had just nine against Delaware State.
The Owls got 20 points and 12 rebounds from Quenton DeCosey, but nothing came easily on a day when they missed 40 of their 62 shots and 23 of their 27 from the arc. If you are not going to shoot well, at least get up shots almost every trip. The Owls are doing that, and when more shots start falling the offense will look much better.
Drexel's offense was brilliant for the first 14 minutes against Penn State at the Palestra, getting the Dragons a 32-15 lead. But they were able to score just 25 points in the final 26 minutes and PSU (8-3) came all the way back to win, 63-57.
Drexel (1-8) is way better than its record. Five of the losses have come against teams with combined records of 41-11. They have been playing without impact transfer Ahmad Fields since the opener. He is due back soon. Big man Rodney Williams was out against Penn State's big and experienced front line.
Penn State got a career game from sophomore Payton Banks. He had 20 points, 16 in the second half, including just about all the big baskets down the stretch. Drexel used just seven players and eventually got worn down as the point numbers in Penn State's favor show: lane (32-14), second chance (21-6), bench (19-5).
Penn coach Steve Donahue wanted to give his alma mater a shot at the Palestra's big stage. He also got a game. Penn (5-5) broke away from a halftime tie by scoring the first 10 points of the second and won, 73-66.
Ursinus (1-5) got a brilliant game from Matt Knowles (26 points) and appeared quite comfortable in the setting. Penn got double-doubles from Matt Howard (23 points, 11 rebounds) and Sam Jones (19 points, 10 boards). Jones is "the" shooter on a team having trouble making shots. He was 5-for-12 from the arc. He has made 39 shots so far. All but six have been threes.
Beyond the shooting, Donahue has been concerned by his team's lack of steals and blocks, both near the bottom of D-I. It was nine steals and six blocks against a D-III opponent, definitely progress. Time will tell it that was an aberration or the start of better defense.