Hope everyone is ready for Thanksgiving. As most of you are fighting your way through Hokies talking smack to a 2-9 team because they don’t have any more cows to milk, I thought we would skip the VPISUx preview and talk about basketball and where we are at. Not surprisingly, Virginia has started 5-1 with the lone loss to then #10 ranked VCU on a last second 3-pointer shot from Rugby Road. All the other games have played out pretty much the same: close til about 5 minutes to go in the half, then slowly pulling away, allowing the ‘third team’ to get some playing time. But while the record is on par this year, there are some casual observations we need to point out.
1. It’s A Man’s World. This is a team game, and the performance of several individuals not names Joey Hoops has really caught our attention. First off, you have to look at London Perrantes. Sure he is not the scoring threat he can be, but he is already become the starting point guard, with a 3.8 assist-to-turnover ratio, and only 5, FIVE, turnovers in his first 6 games. He sees the court well and manages TB’s system extremely well. Once his scoring comes around, he will be very dangerous. Secondly, Malcom Brogdon has become the dependable scorer that the Hoos can count on this year. He is 50% from behind the arc and can dribble drive, which is only augmented now that he has taken over the 2-guard spot. His fast break work needs some attention, but in the half-court game it is nice to see him stepping up as a 2nd year. Lastly, I need to address Gill. I knew he was going to be a beast, but he is also shooting 72.7% from the field, and that not just around the rim. He just knows how to score, and coming off the bench, that means zero down time for UVa’s offense.
2. Knowing Your Roll. With a team as balanced as Virginia is this year, you have to commend the players for adapting to their new roles. Case in point: Justin Anderson. Originally a starter, with Perrantes shifting the guards around, the newly appointed 6th-man is killing it when he gets on the floor. 7 ppg, 5 rpg, 1.5 apg, and 35.3% from 3 is solid enough for a starter, but he understands that coming off the bench, he is giving energy this team needs.
3. Through The Trees. People keep saying it but I’ll echo it. I have not seen a team this big, deep, and talented in a very long time. 1995 with Burrough, Williford, and Nolan would be the last group, and they were an Elite 8 team. 2013 UVa with Mitchell, Tobey, Atkins, and Gill in the down low is not only scoring (30 ppg, 45.5% of team scoring), but grabbing offensive rebounds as well. Yes I can talk about the defensive side of all this, but a balanced inside-out attack is something that has been lacking in, well, almost 2 decades.
1. Say It ‘Aint So, Joe? I love Joey Hoops, but he has had a very slow start to the year. I know he is coming back from injury, and that there are so many options around scoring wise, AND that it has been prudent to rotate him out more so he doesn’t get worn down in the later part of the ACC schedule (26.2 minutes per game vs. 32.5 in 2012), but he JUST retook the team scoring lead with 11.5 ppg, has had just as many single point scoring games as double, including his 1 point in 30 minutes vs. Davidson, and is only making 53% of his foul shots (more about that in a minute). I know he will come around, but it seems that Harris needs some more time to adjust to this balanced attack.
2. It’s Called Charity For A Reason. 57.5% from the free throw line is downright sad. We have been wanting a team that will drive the lane and go inside, but with that aggressiveness come more trips to the line. No more evident was this the case that the VCU game, where the Hoos could have sealed it late, but shot 19-for-33, leaving 14 point on the table in a 3 point loss. It is something you can’t really correct, unless you go all Herb Brooks and stay after a game for 3 hours shooting FTs til your hands bleed.
3. Deep Impact. The 3 point play has killed the Hoos on both end. Offensively, until the Hampton game, has been Malcom Brogdon and no one else. Harris, Brogdon, and Anderson are shooting better than 35% which is helping the Hoos pull away in games, but they need one more. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out Vozenilek and Rogers shooting 50%, but you know what I’m talking about. Nolte is only 2-for-11 and Perrantes is only 2-for-12. Those would be the players that would need to come around. Secondly, the blueprint for beating Bennett’s pack-line defense has been exposed. Work the ball inside, and when the double team comes, two passes to the open guard for 3. And he will be OPEN. More skilled teams than the ones we played will figure that out unless Virginia can rotate out faster.
Hi, I’m in….Texas. Other teams get to go to Hawaii and California. Shoot the Women’s team is in the Bahamas. We go to Corpus Christi. Whatever. First up is Larry Brown’s SMU squad, who like UVa is 5-1, lost their one big game of the year (at Arkansas) and has beat up on lesser competition. After that we would play either Texas A&M who has started the year 6-0 against a weak slate or Missouri State, who is 5-0 against the same. So we have 4 teams with a combined 21-2 record and ZERO Top 25 wins. A lot to prove this weekend.