Story by Chris Graham
Listen to “The SportsDominion Show” ACC Basketball Monday interview with UVa. coach Dave Leitao.
At first glance, Mamadi Diane is the odd man out in Dave Leitao’s latest rotation.
Diane has been relegated to the bench for Virginia’s past three games, a 75-74 loss to North Carolina and a 79-74 win at Boston College last week and a 78-60 win over North Carolina State yesterday.
The apparent demotion was done to get senior Adrian Joseph out of the post and back to the three, where Diane had started much of the past two seasons.
But a look at the numbers reveals that while Joseph has been getting the starting nod at the three, Diane has been getting the bulk of the minutes.
Diane has been averaging a shade under 30 minutes a game the past three, with Joseph getting just under 20 minutes per contest, including 18 minutes in the win over the Wolfpack that got UVa. to 3-9 in conference play.
Leitao said today in his weekly teleconference that he expects the sharing of time at the three between Joseph and Diane to continue on.
“Depending on the situation, depending on the game, that still is an option,” Leitao said in response to a question about the limited time that the two were on the court together on Sunday. “We did it a little bit the game before that the previous Sunday against Boston College, but not as many minutes as it was done, most of the year almost exclusively. In deciding to change that a little bit, obviously right now it’s been effective enough, and we’re going to try to see if that can continue to be. Because I think that gives us a better rebounding presence and a better interior defensive presence when Mike (Scott) is in there or Jamil (Tucker) is in there, from a height standpoint and a weight standpoint versus Adrian having to battle the number of effective power forwards in the league.”
Leitao was later asked if he planned to relengthen what has become a somewhat-shortened bench due to the fact that the ‘Hoos will have to play four games in nine days due to the need to make up the Georgia Tech game that was missed last week.
“I don’t know if we were leading the conference or undefeated in the conference that you would even change – but every minute of every game right now is so important to us that looking beyond, and that’s what the difficulty of this three-games-in-five-days stretch will be, is we don’t have the luxury of looking beyond the next time out, never mind the next game,” said Leitao, whose Cavs travel to Miami on Saturday and Georgia Tech on Monday before returning home to finish out the regular season with home games against Duke (March 5) and Maryland (March 9).
“If we do end up extending our bench a little bit more, it won’t be for rest purposes. It may be for foul trouble. And a guy like Solomon (Tat) or Jerome (Meyinsse) or whoever, it’s not like there is a great separation between the nine guys that we’ve been playing and the guys that we haven’t been playing, it’s just that I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to continue to put guys back in regardless of what had went on before to keep them into it a little more mentally,” Leitao said.
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The SportsDominion.