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Three ways for UVA to approach Wake’s Dinos Mitiglou

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uva basketballWake Forest freshman forward Dinos Mitiglou literally almost single-handedly beat second-ranked UVA on Feb. 14, hitting six of his last seven shots from three-point range in a 61-60 Demon Deacons loss.

And I still say that Wake wins if coach Danny Manning runs the last play through Mitiglou and Codi Miller-McIntyre as a pick-and-pop instead of the pick-and-roll that he called out of the timeout with 12 seconds to go with Miller-McIntyre and Devin Thomas that the Cavs defended well twice in the closing seconds.

Mitiglou, a 6’10” stretch four, is a nightmare matchup for most teams, and even though Virginia, with the nation’s best scoring defense, isn’t most teams, he was more than a handful for the Cavs first time out.

His mere presence on the floor basically makes UVA center Mike Tobey an afterthought. Thomas, a 6’9” junior, had just three points in the loss, but he averages 12.9 points per game, and demands the attention of Virginia’s post defensive stopper, Darion Atkins.

Tobey is an elite shot blocker around the rim, but his lack of mobility chasing stretch fours on pick-and-rolls on the perimeter was exposed in his time on the floor in the first Wake game.

Mitiglou is a streaky shooter. Even within the UVA game on Feb. 14, he was 0-for-5 before getting hot from three-point range late in the first half. That performance came after he shot 6-of-7 from three in an upset of Miami on Feb. 11, during a four-game stretch that had him connecting on 18-of-31 (58.1 percent) of his three-point attempts.

But then in Wake’s next game, a Feb. 17 loss at defensively-challenged Notre Dame, Mitiglou was largely absent, going 4-of-7 from the field, but 0-of-3 from three, in 26 minutes.

Notre Dame is a tough matchup for Wake Forest because the Irish play a lot of four-guard, with 6’5” Pat Connaughton at the four, pushing a guy like Mitiglou to the limit trying to keep up on defense.

That’s the first of the three ways that UVA can approach Mitiglou tonight in Winston-Salem. Not necessarily by going four-guard, but by figuring out a way to challenge the big man on the defensive end.

And I say not necessarily going four-guard, but you do have to wonder if UVA coach Tony Bennett wouldn’t at least experiment with that if he had All-America candidate Justin Anderson at his disposal, allowing him to use a four-guard lineup with London Perrantes, Malcolm Brogdon, Anderson and Marial Shayok along with Atkins or Anthony Gill in the post that would force Mitiglou to either check Atkins or Gill in the post or chase around Shayok on the perimeter.

But that’s not an option tonight, so Virginia is going to have to attack Mitiglou straight up when he’s on either Tobey or Atkins in the post on defense. So he’s not going to get worn out running through screens, but he can be beaten up a bit trying to wrestle in the post, maybe pick up a couple of quick fouls and have to go to the bench.

The other two approaches that I’ve schemed up come on the Wake offensive end. Mitiglou is most effective on pick-and-pops. At 6’10”, he doesn’t need as much open space as a shorter three-point shooter, so though he’s not as quick as guards and small forwards, he doesn’t need to be.

The Pack-Line approach to pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops is to have the big aggressively hedging on the ball to double-team the ball-handler into basically resetting by either dribbling away from the double-team or passing the ball to the weak side.

Miller-McIntyre was able to beat the hedge and reverse the ball back to Mitiglou on a consistent basis – the point guard had eight assists in the UVA game – and Wake’s approach was to just run the pick-and-pop over and over and over until it worked.

On one sequence in the first half of the Feb. 14 game, Miller-McIntyre and Mitiglou ran the pick-and-pop action three times through before Miller-McIntyre was able to connect with Mitiglou for the open look and splash.

The second approach, then, not the best option, but one way to get through this, would be a weak hedge by the big, who hangs closer to Mitiglou, and forces the guard to fight through the screen, and get help from the weak side if the opponent guard gets free. That could free up a wing shooter on the weak side for a three or a drive, but it would also give the UVA defense time to right itself in its rotations.

I’m not sure that Bennett wants to change the principles of how his team defends the high pick-and-roll, but this would be an option.

The third approach would be to simply have the big be more aggressive on the hedge to cut off the passing lane back to Mitiglou. Easier said than done, as the results from Feb. 14 can attest. Maybe have some backside help waiting in the wings to close out if the ball still does end up in Mitiglou’s hands. But any amount of time, milliseconds, even, that the hedge can take off the pass back to Mitiglou can shake the rhythm of the play enough to take the open look away.

A fourth approach – bonus time! – would be a mix of coverages, using football lingo. Go back and forth between weak and aggressive hedges, maybe go four-guard (assuming Perrantes is available, a lineup of Perrantes, Brogdon, Evan Nolte/Devon Hall and Shayok) to make Mitiglou work harder on the defensive end, and maybe use Brogdon in that lineup to check him on the other side of the floor.

That’s a lot of thinking for how the #2 team in the country needs to go after a freshman averaging 9.8 points per game for a 12-15 team, by the way.

– Column by Chris Graham

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