Report Card: Grading out UVA hoops at the end of non-conference play
There’s just one game to grade the 2020-2021 UVA non-conference schedule on, and we just saw how much work Tony Bennett, his staff and his team need to do to get ready for prime time.
Prime time, incidentally, isn’t the ACC.
Let’s presume that the preseason favorites are an NCAA Tourney team.
Prime time is March Madness.
We can thank Gonzaga for setting the bar for what the ‘Hoos will need to be when we get to mid-March.
(The ‘Zags, for their part, have to hope, again, as they do every year, that they didn’t peak before the New Year.)
Best Offensive Lineup: Trey Murphy III (150.4), Jay Huff (148.4), Sam Hauser (119.3), Tomas Woldetensae (115.4), Reece Beekman (114.2)
Best Defensive Lineup: Jay Huff (88.8), Kadin Shedrick (94.4), Reece Beekman (96.9), Justin McKoy (97.7), Trey Murphy III (99.6)
ORtg and DRtg from sport-reference.com
What we need: A little patience
This is supposed to be a group with a ceiling up there with that of the 2018-2019 national champs, but we haven’t seen it yet.
KenPom has Virginia 48th nationally in adjusted offense (1.091 points per possession), and after the Gonzaga debacle 11th nationally in adjusted defense (.889 points per possession).
Preseason first-team All-ACC Sam Hauser has been a disappointment so far, but that might be understandable, and to explain how, let’s cross streams and talk D for a moment.
Hauser (12.8 ppg, 5.8 rebs/g, 50.8% FG, 37.0% 3FG, 30.7 minutes/g) is struggling mightily to pick up what he needs to do on the defensive end (DRtg: 102.4, according to sports-reference.com).
Where he’s having the most trouble isn’t something that shows up the stats: on the back end of pick-and-rolls.
But it was something that you saw was an issue for the team as a whole on Saturday in the 98-75 loss to the ‘Zags, who were 21-of-29 on rim runs, exploiting the lack of deep knowledge of the peculiarities of the Pack Line of Hauser and Rice transfer Trey Murphy III (DRtg: 99.4), in particular.
It’s here that I need to bring up my favorite story about Anthony Gill.
I caught up with Gill during the 2014 ACC Tournament, as Gill, who had been dormant offensively that season into mid-February, was becoming an offensive force.
As the locker room emptied out after the semifinal win over Pitt on a Saturday afternoon, I asked Gill what had happened, and he explained that even though he had been in the program for a year after transferring from South Carolina, it was just that hard for him to figure out where he needed to be on defense at the four in the Pack Line.
He said Bennett told him to focus on what he needed to do defensively, until such point that he didn’t need to think about it anymore.
When things started to become second nature on D, the offense would pick up on its own.
Which is what eventually happened.
I have a feeling that we’ll see the same from Hauser, from Murphy (12.2 ppg,, 3.2 rebs/g 54.8% FG, 55.6% 3FG, 22.8 minutes/g), as they figure out where they need to be.
Remember, this wasn’t a normal preseason. Practices haven’t been the same. The preseason scrimmages that you normally get against top-flight teams didn’t happen.
They’ve only had six games.
The learning is being done in games, and that would be fine if Bennett was a roll the ball out the play, go play, kids kind of coach.
The Pack Line isn’t a roll the ball out there and play system.
Mover blocker isn’t a roll the ball out there and play system.
It takes time, takes reps.
Keep in mind, now, that the two guys who I say need reps to be able to get to where they need to be on offense: are also the team’s two leading scorers.
Guards shooting 50+ percent from the field.
Wait ‘til they figure it out.
The veterans: Going in different directions
Jay Huff (11.2 ppg, 6.2 rebs/g, 2.7 blocks/g, 68.4% FG, 50% 3FG, 20.7 minutes/g) is off the charts grade-wise: a 148.8 ORtg, an 88.8 DRtg.
Huff leads the ACC and is sixth nationally in player efficiency rating, and leads the ACC and is fifth nationally in box plus/minus.
Being Jay Huff, naturally, he still leaves us thinking there’s more there, because there is.
Kihei Clark (9.2 ppg, 3.2 assists/g, 43.2% FG, 25% 3FG, 29.2 minutes/g) has been everywhere – starting, benched in favor of freshman Reece Beekman (4.8 ppg, 2.3 assists/g, 54.2% FG, 42.9% 3FG), leading the team in scoring, getting burned early and often in the San Francisco loss.
The biggest surprise has been defense: his DRtg is 106.7, the worst among the rotation guys, an order of magnitude off from his career 93.2 coming into this season.
Synergy Sports has Clark getting exploited in the pick-and-roll (opponents: 8-of-12 FG) and spot-ups (opponents: 8-of-16 FG).
His 2.5 turnovers per game on offense also stands out, on a team that averages 9.5 per game, and is the slowest in tempo in D1.
Ready to step up: The rotation
It seems more and more that Beekman, a Top 50 national recruit, is about to get handed the keys to the kingdom.
Beekman’s assist-to-turnover rate (2.8:1, to Clark’s 1.3:1) stands out, as does his ORtg/DRtg split (Beekman: 114.2/96.9, Clark: 102.1/106.7).
Don’t be surprised to see Beekman getting more starts, maybe at first alongside Clark – as was the case on Saturday – then eventually with Clark coming off the bench.
It might be time to just up and declare that Casey Morsell (5.7 ppg, 45.2% FG, 18.2% 3FG, 15.5 minutes/g) sort of is what he is.
His reputation is that of a guy who can help you on D, but his DRtg is 102.0.
He can finish at the rim – he’s 8-of-10 on layups and dunks, making him the second-best finisher on the team, to Huff.
He can’t shoot – he’s 2-of-11 on threes, and 4-of-10 on two-point Js.
Last year, Morsell was 15-of-85 on threes and 12-of-41 on two-point Js.
Tomas Woldetensae (5.7 ppg, 42.3% FG, 40% 3FG, 18.0 minutes/g) has sort of receded into the background.
He had that scintillating stretch running several games back in January and February – 21 in the OT win at Wake, 27 in the loss at Louisville, 18 and the game-winner at UNC.
You’re forgiven for forgetting that he had eight points total in the final four games of 2019-2020, including goose eggs in the Duke and Miami wins.
And he’s been yet to get out of single digits in 2020-2021, and he’s putting up 4.3 shots per game, sixth most on the team, trailing even Morsell.
It’s been nice to see sophomore forward Justin McKoy (4.7 ppg, 3.0 rebs/g, 42.9% FG, 33.3% 3FG, 14.2 minutes/g) earning Bennett’s confidence.
Kid is a motor with a solid offense/defense split (113.4/97.7).
You also have to like what you’ve seen so far from redshirt freshman forward Kadin Shedrick (4.0 ppg, 3.7 rebs/g, 50% FG, 11.2 minutes/g).
Shedrick’s offense/defense split is nice (115.1/94.4, the latter figure ranking second, to Huff, among the rotation guys).
Story by Chris Graham