#12 Virginia still trying to figure out rotation, roles

uva-basketballVirginia coach Tony Bennett used 10 players in the first half of the 12th-ranked Cavs’ 80-54 win over Lehigh Wednesday night. He’s not likely to go that deep once ACC play begins in January, but for now it’s a nice luxury to have.

“I thought our bench gave us life,” Bennett said. “We got some stops, and that’s the nice thing, it’s interchangeable. We can play a lot of different guys, and I think that showed.”

Curious was the presence of two of the guys on the bench at the start of the night: seniors Mike Tobey and Evan Nolte. Tobey has come off the bench the past two games in favor of redshirt freshman Jack Salt, who only got 11 minutes with the start Wednesday night, not scoring and recording one rebound for his effort.

Tobey had eight points on 4-of-8 shooting with five rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench.

Nolte, who started 11 games in the backcourt last season in place of the injured Justin Anderson, got four minutes in garbage time, not seeing the floor until the 5:43 mark, with Virginia up 70-45.

Nolte has played 39 minutes in six games, and has been limited to garbage-time duty the past two games.

Marial Shayok started in the backcourt and scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 19 minutes, though one other statline stood out that wasn’t a positive – his negative-1 +/- rating.

Darius Thompson, who has also started in the backcourt along with regulars Malcolm Brogdon and London Perrantes, had 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting in 22 minutes, with a +/- rating of +31, best on the team.

Tobey’s +20 led the bigs, with reserve Isaiah Wilkins, who had six points on 3-of-6 shooting and five rebounds in 16 minutes, at +15.

Salt was at +2.

Bennett seems to be leaning toward bringing Tobey, the 2015 ACC Sixth Man of the Year, off the bench again this season, and searching for an answer as to who should start alongside senior Anthony Gill. Salt, at 6’11”, is a more traditional option, as a big big, but Wilkins, at 6’8”, brings the kind of energy and athleticism that Darion Atkins and Akil Mitchell have brought to the back end of the Pack-Line, with the key difference being that Wilkins can be a contributor on offense, with range out to 18 feet and solid skills passing in the post, high and low.

Expect to see Wilkins getting more of the post minutes in December and then into ACC play in a rotation with Gill and Tobey that has those three splitting the bulk of the 80 minutes a game for the four and five positions.

Brogdon and Perrantes will be good for 65-70 minutes a game in the backcourt, leaving 50-55 minutes for Shayok, Thompson, Devon Hall and, bad news for Nolte, Nolte, who appears to be the odd man out in the backcourt, with Salt and Jarred Reuter being on the other side of the line in the post.

– Column by Chris Graham


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