Analysis: How talented is this year’s Virginia basketball team compared to recent groups?

uva basketballA TV commentator talking in the media room before Sunday’s Virginia-NC State game offered the thought that Tony Bennett is doing his best job as a UVA coach this season because he doesn’t have the talent he had in past years to work with.

Seriously. Not making this up.

This is real news. Not that fake stuff that the president goes around complaining about all the time.

Only one guy, the commentator said, De’Andre Hunter, is maybe an NBA talent. Maybe. And that’s it.

Scouts were in the house, it was pointed out, and they weren’t there watching UVA players.

There are no Joe Harrises, Mike Scotts, Malcolm Brogdons, Justin Andersons, London Perranteses on this team, he said.

It’s a bunch of role players who are playing above their heads, and also a team that has had a favorable schedule.

The favorable schedule, sure. Virginia opened with four of its first five ACC games at home. That will even out.

Overall strength of schedule, according to KenPom.com, the ‘Hoos have had the sixth-toughest schedule in the ACC, and 63rd-toughest in the country.

Four other teams in this week’s AP Top 10 have had weaker schedules. That one we can probably call a wash.

To the lack of talent, roster full of role players, no NBA talents part of the argument. This one is bunk.

Bennett played eight guys in Sunday’s 68-51 win. Looking at their Rivals.com recruiting ratings, De’Andre Hunter, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome, all from the Class of 2016, were all four-stars.

Mamadi Diakite, from the Class of 2015, also a four-star.

From the Class of 2014, Isaiah Wilkins was a four-star. Jack Salt didn’t get a rating, coming from New Zealand.

Devon Hall and Nigel Johnson, the geezers of the group, way back from the Class of 2013, were both three-stars.

Now, let’s look back at the NBA guys that Bennett has coached in Charlottesville.

Mike Scott, a holdover from the Dave Leitao era, was a three-star in 2007, after a year of postgrad ball at Hargrave.

Joe Harris was a three-star in 2010. Malcolm Brogdon was a four-star in 2011, and Justin Anderson was a four-star in 2012.

Perrantes, in 2013, was a three-star.

Virginia won 89 games between 2013-2014 and 2015-2016, with two ACC regular-season titles, one ACC Tournament title, two #1 national seeds, a Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight.

The deepest group of that era was the 2014-2015 team that finished 30-4 and spent several weeks ranked #2 in the national polls.

Nine guys averaged double-digits in minutes per game for that team: Brogdon (a four-star), Anderson (a four-star), Anthony Gill (a three-star), Darion Atkins (a three-star), Mike Tobey (a four-star), Perrantes (a three-star), Marial Shayok (a three-star), Evan Nolte (a four-star) and Hall (a three-star).

Quick math, and not weighting based on minutes and production, you get an average star rating for that group of 3.44.

This year’s group goes eight-deep. For sake of comparison, we have to account for Salt not having a star rating because he was an international player. Even if he’s a two-star, this year’s rotation has an average star rating of 3.5.

I’m not going to try to tell you who among this group is an NBA player, if any of them are. It would seem logical that Hunter, Guy, Hall and Wilkins will get opportunities to continue their careers in the Association, at the least.

And as to how that compares to the groups past. Let’s be honest here. When he walked on Grounds, nobody had Mike Scott, after his year of PG ball, bound for the NBA.

Malcolm Brogdon said his final two college choices were UVA and Harvard. That doesn’t scream NBA.

Joe Harris was about as unheralded as you can be coming out of the state of Washington.

Justin Anderson probably had the most buzz coming out of high school, left school early for the NBA draft, was taken in the first round, and is now barely getting on the floor in Philadelphia in his third pro season.

Maybe we can just go with what I’ve been saying since the exit interviews last March, when it looked to me that Bennett would be putting his most talented rotation ever on the floor, and that was when I was assuming that four-star 7-footer Jay Huff would be getting big-time minutes in the frontcourt, which hasn’t happened yet, and may not this season.

Even without Huff, the analysis above makes clear that Tony has a ton of talent at his disposal.

Even if the program doesn’t have a ton of respect in the media room.

Story by Chris Graham

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