Busting Brackets

Eric Dixon, Villanova demolish DePaul in anticlimactic Big East Basketball matchup

DePaul v Villanova
DePaul v Villanova / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages
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Impact of Eric Dixon

Over the course of Dixon’s collegiate career, the 6-foot 8-inch 260-pounder’s certainly proven he can shoot the long-ball (especially) for a big man; given that he’s made 82 threes on 216 attempts (38 %) in 109 career games. But, Dixon’s clearly at his best when he’s getting to the free-throw line and using his large, strong frame to carve out space in the mid to low post.

As exhilarating as it was to watch the 6-foot 8-inch southpaw drain big threes like his against Ohio State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament two seasons ago along with his clutch shooting versus Creighton or Kansas State this year, the more threes Dixon’s shooting the more likely it is that Nova’s backcourt is struggling, and Dixon’s 111 three-point attempts in Neptune’s first-season (as ‘Nova’s head coach) was 76 more than his total in 2021-‘22. In other words, Villanova advanced to the Final Four after (/when) Dixon shot 35 threes and averaged less than 1 three-ball per game for the entire season; compared to the 2022-‘23 season where he was shooting too many long balls (or more than 3 per-game) and his team was resigned to playing .500 basketball.

Unlike several of Dixon’s (previous) games in the last year and a half, the power-forward tamed his willingness to shoot the 3-ball against DePaul and hoisted up just a single one. While the help that Dixon’s teammates provided played a large part in lowering the big-man’s 3-ball output, Dixon made a conscious effort to attack the interior of DePaul’s defense ; and the fact that he shot 6 free throws bodes well for the Cats and its future. Given that ‘Nova’s smack-dab in the middle of its Big East schedule, it would behoove the Cats to firm up the strength of its interior; and if Dixon’s wandering off to the perimeter and chucking threes on ‘Nova’s offensive possessions it probably means their offense is in search-mode.

At 21 for 62 from (behind) the three-point line in 16 games, Dixon’s draining a smidgen more than 1 of (his every) 3 three-balls and is shooting nearly 3.9 threes per game. Lately, Dixon’s been forced to shoot more long-balls than ‘Nova Nation was hoping he’d have to; thanks to Moore’s absence and the lack of three-point shooting that’s coming from the likes of Burton, Bamba, Longino, Armstrong and (really) the whole team. To be clear, it is not my intention to take jabs at Eric Dixon’s (perhaps) overrated outside shooting. On the contrary, I’m arguing against him shooting nearly 4 threes per-game like he is this season; and I’m also not a fan of him shooting (even) 3 threes per game. As Dixon showed us no more than 2 seasons ago, he’s at his best when he’s given the green light to let it fly on (just) his wide-open perimeter looks; a prudent approach that resulted in 17 makes on 35 attempts.

While it’s clear Dixon’s role is larger (& different) than it was on the Final-Four squad, he’s (still) averaging just 3 more minutes of playing time than he did (in) two seasons ago; and there’s no reason why Dixon should be shooting more than 1 or 2 3’s per game. In Marquette’s last three games, the Golden Eagles are 1-2 with/ two consecutive losses and they’re a combined 24-for-90 from 3-point territory. Set to travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the coming hours for the pair’s Big East matchup on Monday afternoon, Villanova needs to formulate a game-plan that’s geared towards exposing the 11th-ranked Golden Eagles’ weaknesses (on offense) by embracing the strength of its (own) physical, disciplined defense.

As Seton Hall and Butler have proven in the past week, forcing the inconsistent-shooting Golden Eagles into contested-shots from-3 & elsewhere is essential for any Marquette opponent who has hopes of beating them. At 11-5 overall & 2-3 in the Big East, the 11th-ranked Milwaukeeans are a battle-tested, wounded powerhouse whose level of play has been dropping since its impressive, 14-point victory over the nation’s best team, the Kansas Jayhawks (now third), on the 21st of November.