Augusta Free Press

UVA-Iowa State in the Sweet 16: One way it might go

You’re a UVA basketball fan, and you know how the Sweet 16 matchup with Iowa State should go. Tony Bennett should put Malcolm Brogdon on Georges Niang at the outset and go four-guard with Marial Shayok getting the start.

It won’t go that way, of course.

We love Tony Bennett for myriad reasons. One is he knows his team better than the rest of us do, and he can flummox us with what seems to be inflexibility.

Bennett will approach Iowa State the way he approaches everybody else: straight up.

We’re going Brogdon, London Perrantes, Devon Hall, Isaiah Wilkins and Anthony Gill to start the game against the Cyclones, because that’s what Bennett does.

And get this: it’s the right way to do things.

Make Niang (20.2 points per game, 54.6 percent field goal shooting, 39.0 percent three-point shooting) earn his against Wilkins, the fifth-best defender in the ACC in defensive rating, according to Sports-Reference.com.

Wilkins will get Niang at least through the first media timeout, and probably through the second. Mike Tobey will be the first big off the bench for UVA, and unless Wilkins gets into early foul trouble, it’s probable that Tobey spells Anthony Gill at the five.

Those of us who watch Virginia basketball play-for-play know what usually happens. Opponents get theirs in the opening minutes: even Hampton got a lot of what it wanted in the first 10 minutes.

So Niang hits a couple of jumpers. Monte Morris (13.9 points/g, 48.9 percent field goals, 38.9 percent three-point field goals) hits an end-of-shot-clock three.

Iowa State leads at the first media timeout, has eight to 10 points, looks to be setting pace.

Lots of Virginia opponents seem to be setting pace against the Cavs in the opening four to five minutes.

Spoiler: this game plays out like the two Louisville games. You’ll see that later on.

Bennett spells Hall with Shayok and Gill with Tobey, shifting Shayok onto Niang in this stretch.

Iowa State only goes seven deep, so we don’t see a lot of rotation from the ‘Clones over the course of the evening.

The ISU bench played a total of 30 minutes in the 78-61 win over Arkansas-Little Rock in the second round on Saturday.

Second media timeout: still anybody’s game, but the pace has slowed considerably. Somewhere in the range of 12 to 14 points per team at the under-12.

Neither team is in foul trouble. Iowa State doesn’t draw a lot of fouls from opponents, Virginia doesn’t foul a lot, so there are no issues there.

Fans are upset with the Cavs for being stagnant, but Virginia is running its offense.

Third media timeout through the end of the half, we’re in a slog. The score at the half is just on either side of 30, with the number of possessions in the same range, coming out between 28 and 30.

Niang hasn’t gone off, and he won’t. He’ll get his, no doubt. But it helps to point out that among his most restrained offensive performances this year were Iowa State’s two games against Oklahoma State, a team that ultimately got its coach fired, but in the meantime was able to rein in ISU possession-wise.

The ‘Clones average 71.7 possessions per game this season, but got 58 and 64 against the Cowboys in two games this season.

Niang, in those games, scored 18 and 17, as Iowa State scored 64 and 58.

Brogdon is there to check Niang in the second half, and Bennett will eventually slide the ACC defensive player of the year over to Niang in the second half, inserting Shayok for Wilkins, as much for offense as for defense.

By the second media timeout of the second half, Virginia has asserted control. Niang is, if not neutralized, held in check, somewhat, and the UVA offense, assassin proficient in the halfcourt game, is scoring on virtually every possession.

By the under-eight timeout in the second half, the margin is eight to ten in favor of Virginia, and the Cavalanche is on.

Virginia frustrates opponents with how hard it is to get good shots on the offensive end, and how hard it is to guard them for 20-25 seconds on the defensive end, and over time, the accumulation works to the opponents’ disadvantage.

This is why Virginia shoots better and scores more points per possession in the second half, and opponents deteriorate in both areas in the final 20 minutes.

Iowa State is a talented team, but the lack of depth, and lack of experience against both the Pack-Line defense and the patient mover-blocker offense, will wear the Cyclones down.

The game will be well in hand by the under-four media timeout in the second half.

That’s one way this one plays out, anyway.

Column by Chris Graham