London Perrantes Has the Virginia Offense HummingPosted by Lathan Wells on January 31st, 2014
Virginia’s resurgence is well-known by now, with everyone from this site to Joe Lunardi taking notice — standing firm right behind Syracuse in the ACC standings will do that. But while Virginia’s defense is still as potent as ever (only allowing opponents to shoot 38.0 percent from the field on the year), it’s the Cavaliers’ suddenly white-hot offense that has them racing off to such a commanding ACC start. It would be a challenge to find anyone who projected Virginia would be fourth in the ACC in scoring (70.5 PPG) through eight games, but there’s one obvious catalyst for Tony Bennett’s best offensive team during his tenure at Virginia: freshman point man London Perrantes.
While Tyler Ennis has garnered most of the freshman point guard accolades in the ACC this season, Perrantes can make an argument he’s just as vital to his team’s success as his Syracuse counterpart. He is averaging 4.8 assists per game in conference contests, but more impressively his assist-to-turnover ratio is an astounding 4.2 to 1. Like Ennis, Perrantes is lauded for his calm demeanor under fire and an innate ability to set and maintain his team’s preferred tempo regardless of opponent. Part of the reason the team is scoring at its current clip is because Perrantes is doing a tremendous job protecting the ball as well as knowing when to get the team out in transition (traditionally a rarity for Bennett’s squads). Virginia struggled while the young point guard was getting acclimated to the college game, but with him now firmly entrenched as the starter at the position, this team runs at a much more efficient pace.
The other obvious benefit to Perrantes’ development and firm control of the starting point guard role has been the freedom it’s afforded wing player Malcolm Brogdon. The 6’5″ sophomore, who split time at the point early while Perrantes was getting up to speed, has now moved to the two-guard position almost full-time (there are a few moments per game when Bennett gives his freshman a breather). The result has been the best offensive stretch of Brogdon’s career to date. He’s averaging a sparkling 15.1 points per game in ACC competition, shooting 51.1 percent from the field, 44.4 percent from three and 90.5 percent from the line. He’s scored in double figures in all eight games, including 16 on 7-of-10 shooting in the Cavs’ most recent outing against Notre Dame. Freeing him from primary ball-handling duties has allowed this talented guard up to expend his energy getting to the basket and finding open spots on the perimeter. While Perrantes’ scoring numbers are modest (a mere 4.5 PPG this year), he’s the perfect pass-first point guard for the Virginia offense to excel. It’s no surprise that players like Brogdon and senior Joe Harris look much more comfortable and in rhythm with the freshman now firmly in charge of the offense. And while Harris is the team’s best scorer and deserves a lot of credit for the team’s turnaround, his ability to rediscover his stroke and find open lanes to the basket wouldn’t have resurfaced without the growth shown by his point guard.
The contrast between this team in non-conference play and the way it’s rolling now is a stark one. Where early in the year players and team both were underwhelming, the turn to the new year and ACC play has unearthed the Virginia team most expected to see before the year began: a true contender for a conference title. The pleasant surprise has been just how good Perrantes has turned out to be and just how good the Virginia offense has looked with him running the show. With a manageable schedule remaining and a defense that competes on every possession, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to find the Cavaliers staring down Syracuse and Duke for the league lead by early March.