ACC Burning Questions: Virginia Cavaliers

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 11th, 2016

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: Where will the points come from this year?

It’s been a historic three-year run at Virginia, with 89 overall wins, a 45-9 ACC record, an Elite Eight and a Sweet Sixteen appearance. A stingy pack-line defense has been the cornerstone of Tony Bennett‘s program during this run, but his offensive attack has been better than most realize. Virginia’s point totals never look impressive because of its extremely slow pace of play, but from an efficiency standpoint they have actually finished among the best in the land (i.e., a top-22 finish in KenPom‘s offensive efficiency rankings all three years). The main cog in that attack — Malcolm Brogdon — led the Cavaliers in scoring for those three years, including a career best 18.2 PPG as a senior. According to Bennett, some of his veteran returnees will have to shoulder more of the scoring load. Senior point guard London Perrantes, one of those upperclassmen, is still around. He led the ACC in three-point accuracy last year, making a blistering 48.8 percent of his shots from deep, and he has obviously earned the confidence of his coach. At ACC Operation Basketball last month, Bennett said, “He’s smart enough to figure out where he has to look and be assertive, but he’s also smart enough to say what does the team need, who needs to touch the ball.”

Senior London Perrantes may have to look to score more for Virginia without Malcolm Brogdon around anymore. (wahingtonpost.com)

Senior London Perrantes will look to score more for Virginia, without Malcolm Brogdon around. (washingtonpost.com)

While Perrantes is a known quantity, the rest of the returnees have mostly been role players to this point in their careers. Only one of those returnees other than Perrantes managed to top 11 points in any game versus a conference foe last year. Four juniors will get a first crack at increased roles in the Virginia attack — forward Isaiah Wilkins and guards Devon Hall, Marial Shayok and Darius Thompson. The undersized Wilkins spent a lot of time in the post last season, but Bennett encouraged him to work on his outside shot to make him more of a scoring threat. All three junior guards have good size and versatility, but none has ever been offensively aggressive. Shayok is the player who probably has the most potential, though, as he has connected on 40 percent of his threes in his first two years. The Cavaliers also return a couple of bangers in the paint — sophomores Jack Salt and Jarred Reuter. Neither showed much offensive flash in their first season, but each could earn time as rebounders and screeners.

Bennett welcomes six talented newcomers to this year’s squad, including a pair of 6’9″ forwards who spent last season as redshirts. Memphis transfer Austin Nichols should adequately replace departed senior Anthony Gill as Virginia’s primary big man. Nichols was productive on both ends of the floor as a Tiger, scoring 13.3 PPG and blocking 3.4 shots per outing as a sophomore. Mamadi Diakite sat out last season to add weight and strength. If his body is mature enough, he could earn minutes as an athletic defender and finisher in the post. There may also be some potential firepower among the four true freshmen. McDonald’s All-American guard Kyle Guy is described by Bennett as “a complete offensive player with a nice feel for the game.” Ty Jerome also joins the backcourt but he’s still recovering from surgery on both hips. Two other four-star recruits also arrive – 6’11” Jay Huff and 6’7″ De’Andre Hunter, each of whom is described as skilled offensive talents.

Virginia has all the ingredients to put together another stout defensive unit in the mold of a Bennett team, but replacing the offensive output of Brogdon will be a tall order. At least the head coach has a number of options with which to experiment. Given the depth and versatility of his roster, we trust that he will find enough answers to keep Virginia in the hunt for another top-two ACC finish. To take the next step and reach that elusive Final Four, the Cavaliers will need somebody — maybe Shayok or Guy — to become a reliable third scorer to support Perrantes and Nichols battling the best teams in the land.

Brad Jenkins (285 Posts)


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One response to “ACC Burning Questions: Virginia Cavaliers”

  1. Jimmy Dug says:

    High risk; high potential reward, if not this year, next
    Go hoos!

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