Inside the Numbers: A lot not good from the Virginia loss to USC

braxton key

Braxton Key hits a lane floater and goes to the line for three of his eight points in returning to the lineup. Photo by Dan Grogan/GroganVision

The verdict on Virginia basketball after South Carolina: we were due a gap year.

The win at Syracuse had us thinking, hmmm, maybe it’s not going to be as bad as we’d thought.

Syracuse is 7-5; its best win is over KenPom 111 Georgia Tech.

The win over Vermont felt good, and then you look, and Vermont is 8-5, lost to Rider, lost to Yale (by double-digits).

Arizona State is 8-4, just got waxed by 40 by St. Mary’s.

Even North Carolina: 7-5, likely on its way to the NIT in March.

Purdue waxed Virginia by 29, and, hell, Purdue is 7-5, lost by 14 at friggin’ Nebraska.

And this South Carolina team that owned the floor for about 35 of the 40 minutes on Sunday: lost at home to Boston (the Terriers, not the Celtics) by eight.

Credit to Frank Martin and his group for taking it to Virginia early, then withstanding a mid-second-half charge that got the Cavaliers back from 13 down to a tie game with 11:09 to go.

Two surprising takeaways from this one:

One, that South Carolina had such an easy time on the offensive end. The Gamecocks shot 55.1 percent and scored 1.167 points per possession, which, for perspective, Gonzaga leads the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at a rate of 1.159 points per possession on the season.

Which means South Carolina, which had been scoring 1.005 points per possession coming in, good for the 152nd spot in D1, per KenPom.com, just pulled a Gonzaga on a Virginia D that had been giving up 0.801 points per possession coming in, which, yes, was by far the best nationally.

And it was done without a barrage of threes – USC was 6-of-17 from long-range, respectable, but not significant – and also without anything unusual having been done in the paint.

South Carolina was 12-of-19 on shots at the rim, which, good, not great.

Doing the math, that means the Gamecocks were 9-of-13 on two-point jumpers.

That is worth a second look. For the season, South Carolina was shooting 38.8 percent on two-point jumpers coming in, so 9-of-13, 69.2 percent, yeah, a statistical anomaly there.

You don’t want to say luck, but plug in what USC normally shoots on those jumpers, and you take 10 points off the board, so, it meant something.

I said there were two surprising takeaways. What USC was able to do on offense was one. The second, how bad the UVA offense is, actually not at all surprising, because we’re 11 games in now, and this is the team that we have to watch and root for and parse and the rest.

Virginia shot 43.9 percent, was 6-of-18 from three, 9-of-14 at the rim, 3-of-7 on two-point jumpers. Nothing remarkable.

The ugly thing: 19 turnovers on 60 possessions.

Point guard Kihei Clark had seven. For the season, Clark has 35 turnovers in 389 floor minutes.

As a freshman last year, Clark had 39 turnovers in 1,019 minutes.

The problem is that Clark is being asked to do too much, or maybe that’s not the right way to put it. It’s not that Tony Bennett is asking Clark to do too much, but somebody needs to do something, and Clark ends up being the guy.

He’s getting no help from the other guards – Tomas Woldetensae, Casey Morsell, Kody Stattmann. Those three played a combined 63 minutes, shot 5-of-14 from the floor, had 15 points, turned the ball over five times.

They’re not bringing the ball up the floor, initiating the offense, posing any kind of threat running off screens in mover-blocker, spacing the floor in the ball screen offense.

They’re not doing anything.

It’s not their fault. Actually, Morsell is a four-star recruit; he’s expected to be doing more than he’s doing now. Woldetensae was in JUCO ball for a reason, you have to presume, and Stattmann was projected to be at best a rotation guy for a reason, again, have to presume.

These guys would be pushing Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy in practice, fighting for scraps in terms of minutes, ideally, but when Jerome and Guy both decided to join De’Andre Hunter, who we all knew was leaving after last season, well, this year got tougher for Bennett and his staff.

The need for Morsell to develop accelerated mightily. Sam Hauser, unfortunately, is leading the scout team in scoring as a redshirt due to transfer rules.

Top 50 Class of 2020 recruits Jabri Abdur-Rahim and Reece Beekman are stuck finishing out their prep careers.

Both project to be dudes when they matriculate in the fall, but that’s next fall.

Where we are now: let’s be fair, it could be a lot tougher to stomach. (See: North Carolina.)

I keep saying this, but it’s not like anybody else in college basketball is saying, this is ours.

Virginia is as good as anybody, which is a positive way to say, nobody’s really that good this year.

Maybe somebody among Morsell, Stattmann, Woldetensae figures out how to put the ball in the bucket on a consistent basis, taking the pressure off Clark, allowing Mamadi Diakite, Braxton Key, Jay Huff to be more effective, more efficient.

If not, this is a gap year.

It’s probably a gap year, by the way. It’s probably best to just go ahead and accept that now and move on.

Story by Chris Graham


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