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What UVA Basketball fans need to know about Ohio

Tony Bennett
UVA coach Tony Bennett. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

It’s not “ideal,” as UVA coach Tony Bennett has conceded, the shackles placed on Bennett, his staff, his team, by the COVID-19 quarantine that kept everybody under bubble wrap for the week leading into the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

The ‘Hoos are on their way to Indy. That’s the good news.

Awaiting them is a talented Ohio squad that is playing its best basketball of the season at the most important time of the season.

The Bobcats (16-7) played their way into the NCAA Tournament field as the #13 seed in the West with a three-game run through the MAC Tournament as the five seed in Cleveland, defeating the one seed, Toledo, 87-80, in the tournament semis, and then the two seed Buffalo, 84-69, in the final.

They’ve now won nine of their last 10, and their resume includes a narrow 77-75 loss to Illinois, the top seed in the Midwest Regional, back on Nov. 27.

In that one, the guy that you’ve been hearing a lot about, 6’4″ guard Jason Preston, had 31 points on 13-of-23 shooting, eight assists, six rebounds – kid made himself a few million that night with his effort against the Illini, who, did I mention that Illinois is ranked fifth nationally in defensive efficiency per

Yeah, Preston is good.

Also in that one, 6’8″ stretch four Ben Vander Plas had 20 points and dropped four threes.

Pick-and-pop stretch fours can create problems for Virginia’s Pack Line.

This Ohio team, in general, looks like it can create problems for Virginia, at least on one end of the floor.

Inside the Numbers: Ohio rotation guys

  • 6’4” junior Jason Preston: 16.6 ppg, 7.2 assists/g, 6.8 rebounds/g, 53.0% FG, 40.8% 3FG
  • 6’8” senior Dwight Wilson: 14.9 ppg, 7.5 rebounds/g, 66.5% FG
  • 6’8” junior Ben Vander Plas: 12.8 ppg, 5.7 rebounds/g, 3.8 assists/g, 43.9% FG, 35.6% 3FG
  • 6’5” sophomore Ben Roderick: 12.4 ppg, 48.7% FG, 40.7% 3FG
  • 6’3” sophomore Lunden McDay: 10.3 ppg, 43.5% FG, 35.2% 3FG
  • 6’1” freshman Mark Sears: 8.7 ppg, 3.5 assists/g, 48.0% FG, 28.9% 3FG
  • 6’1” sophomore Miles Brown: 5.0 ppg, 41.9% FG, 35.6% 3FG

Breakdown: Offense

Efficiency numbers from Synergy Sports

Inside game: 26.7 percent of offensive possessions

Ohio is “excellent” on cuts (1.331 PPP) and offensive rebounds (1.217 PPP), and “average” on post-ups (0.812 PPP).

  • Who to watch for: Wilson (84% FG/1.655 PPP on cuts; 80.6% FG on offensive rebounds; 53.4%/0.96 PPP on post-ups), Vander Plas (66.7%/1.429 PPP on offensive rebounds, 70.6%/1.227 PPP on cuts, Preston 66.7%/1.194 PPP on cuts.

Spot-ups: 23.8 percent of offensive possessions

The Bobcats are “excellent,” averaging 1.036 PPP on spot-ups.

  • Who to watch for: Preston (51.2%/1.442 PPP), Roderick (43.7%/1.202 PPP), Sears (43.3%/1.156 PPP).

Pick-and-rolls: 16.9 percent of offensive possessions

“Excellent” at P&R ballhandler (0.851 PPP), “good” at P&R roll man (0.98 PPP).

  • Who to watch for: Vander Plas (50.%/1.129 PPP on P&R roll man), Sears (50.0%/1.090 PPP on P&R ballhandler), Wilson (61.5%/1.043 PPP on P&R roll man), Preston (46.3%/0.838 on P&R ballhandler)

Transition: 15.3 percent of offensive possessions

“Excellent,” per Synergy, scoring 1.175 PPP.

  • Who to watch for: Vander Plas (58.3%/1.344 PPP), Roderick (56.3%/1.292 PPP), McDay (54.5%/1.231 PPP), Preston (68.4%/1.185 PPP)

Breakdown: Defense

Efficiency numbers from Synergy Sports

The best defender is Roderick, who rates “excellent,” allowing opponents 0.654 PPP.

Preston (0.743 PPP), Brown (0.767 PPP) and Vander Plas (0.789 PPP) all rate “very good.”

How this one plays out

Preston, at 6’4″, is a tough matchup for UVA point guard Kihei Clark, because Clark, at 5’9″, gives up seven inches in that one. I would expect to see Bennett go more with 6’3″ freshman Reece Beekman on Preston, with Clark on the two guard, McDay.

The matchups at four and five will be the other keys in this one. Expect to see Ohio coach Jeff Boals try to go to Wilson in the post early against Jay Huff, if nothing else to try to get a cheapie on Huff in the first couple of minutes to trigger Bennett’s predilection toward putting a starter on the bench early with a foul.

Sam Hauser will have to stick with Vander Plas while also providing help on the back line of the Pack Line on dribble-drives by Preston. He’ll have his hands full in that respect, just because Ohio is so good on lane cuts.

Ohio will score points, basically, is the message. The Bobcats don’t get many stops, as noted by their middle-of-the-pack numbers in defensive efficiency, per

Key as usual will be Clark and Beekman getting into the paint. You may see Bennett use Huff a little more in the post and mid-range to take advantage of his size advantage on Wilson in the post.

At a glance

Efficiency data from

  • Offense: Ohio 113.7 (29), Virginia 116.3 (12)
  • Defense: Ohio 101.2 (174), Virginia 92.3 (33)
  • Tempo: Ohio 69.3 (131), Virginia 60.1 (357)


#13 Ohio (16-7) vs. #4 Virginia (18-6)
Saturday, 7:15 p.m., truTV

  • Virginia 72-64, 75% win probability
  • BartTorvik: Virginia 69-62, 75% win probability
  • ESPN BPI: Virginia +10.6, 73.6% win probability

Story by Chris Graham

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