Inside the Numbers: As London Perrantes goes, so goes UVA

london perrantesLondon Perrantes is the only UVA player averaging double figures, at 12.3 points per game. The Cavs go 10 deep, with the ninth and 10th guys, Ty Jerome and Jack Salt, averaging 3.7 points per game, signifying depth, right?

But in the end, every team needs a guy, if you know what I’m getting at there, and this season for the Cavs, that guy has been Perrantes – who has four of Virginia’s five 20-point performances in 2016-2017.

If you need to know, then, why Virginia has lost four straight, look at what its guy has done over the last four: 16-of-58 from the field (27.6 percent), 5-of-28 from three-point range (17.9 percent), with just nine assists and seven turnovers over the four games.

Fans on the message boards have started a narrative about how Perrantes may have just run out of gas, that he’s playing too many minutes, that he’s being asked to do too much, that he’s wilting under the pressure.

The minutes issue, we can probably dismiss: Perrantes is averaging 31.7 minutes per game this season, after averaging 33.3 minutes a game last year and 33.2 minutes a game two seasons ago.

Is he being asked to do too much? Well, he is being asked to do more than last year, on a Cavs’ team that had two future NBA players, Malcolm Brogdon and Mike Tobey, with Anthony Gill a beast in the post in addition. But Perrantes averaged 8.0 shots from the floor a game a year ago, and is averaging 10.0 a game this season, meaning, yes, he is doing more, but not that much more.

Is he wilting under pressure? It’s dangerous to try to get into somebody’s head, but listening to Perrantes talk after Virginia’s 54-48 overtime loss to Miami Monday night, you have to worry.

Asked about fatigue, Perrantes replied: “I wish I knew what was getting me out of rhythm so I could fix it. I’m in a pretty deep slump right now and I need to figure it out and find a way to get over it.”

Asked later about advice from Brogdon, who was in the house to have his #15 retired: “He just said it’s not easy. Nothing good is ever going to come easy. He told me you’re going to have your ups and your downs and you just have to find your way out of them, try to stay as level-headed as you can, and lead your team. I’m trying to do that as best as I can. I know the slump is messing with me mentally, but I’m trying to stay as up as I can for the team. Coach Bennett always says the sun is going to come up in the morning, so hopefully my shots come up in the morning, too.”

I ran into Brogdon after the game, and he reiterated that he feels Perrantes is not playing with confidence, and that he needs to remember he’s still one of the best guards in the ACC.

It’s easier said than done, unfortunately. Eight nights ago, Perrantes was the point guard of a team that was a boxout away from being tied for first in the ACC, and now after losing four in a row is tied for seventh.

The guy knows how to win more than anyone in Virginia basketball history – having quarterbacked two 30-win seasons, two ACC regular-season titles, an ACC Tournament title, 107 wins (and counting) over his four years as a starter.

He is getting more attention from opposing defenses than he did when he had Brogdon, Gill, Tobey, Justin Anderson and Joe Harris to feed. Even last year, he was the third or even fourth option on offense, and when he cut off screens he could dish out to a future NBA wing on the perimeter or hit one of two NBA-quality bigs rolling toward the rim.

Now he has bigs cheating off the likes of Jack Salt, Jarred Reuter and Mamadi Diakite, none of whom have ACC-quality post games, when he runs off screens, the only threat at the four or five being Isaiah Wilkins, who gets most of his points off 12- to 15-foot jumpers and stickbacks.

The odd thing isn’t that Perrantes has been struggling for four games now, but rather that it took opponents this long to exploit the obvious weak point in the UVA offense, which is the utter lack of anything in terms of production from the post in the absence of Austin Nichols, a former five-star recruit who was dismissed after playing a grand total of one game in a Virginia uniform.

Somehow, the Cavs, with basically one arm tied behind their backs, beat Louisville twice, Notre Dame on the road, had Villanova on the ropes in Philly, blew double-digit leads at Syracuse and Virginia Tech and took West Virginia to the final minute-thirty.

That’s what is vexing right now. Two years ago, a promising Virginia season went off the rails when the Cavs lost Justin Anderson to a broken pinky, and the Cavs limped to a 2-3 finish trying to re-assimilate him into the rotation.

This year’s team is going off the rails three months after losing a guy who played one game and whose absence is only now, exceedingly late in the game, coming back to haunt them.

It’s most certainly haunting London Perrantes, who we need to acknowledge isn’t actually in the shooting slump that he thinks he’s in, because it’s not like he’s missing open shots, given that he’s not getting open shots.

He just needs some help. The riddle is figuring out where it’s going to come from, absent a surprise big move at the trade deadline.

This just in: the trade deadline is an NBA thing. Damn.

Column by Chris Graham

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