November 17, 2016

My humble observations from UVA 72, St. Francis 32

I wanted to get this post out yesterday, but alas... work... stupid work...

Emptying my notebook after basking in the glorious 2016-17 home opener against St. Francis...

This team - St. Francis - sucks ass.  So take everything with a grain of salt.  JACK SALT, BITCH.

J/k, but the Terriers were bad.  Like, really bad.  They didn't help their own cause at all.

That being said, I think I heard somewhere that this is the 4th-lowest point total allowed to Virginia's opposition in the modern era.  So that's pretty good.  St. Francis is a D-1 team, so, you know... our defense is pretty good.

Other defensive notes from the post game notes:

SFB’s 13 first-half points marked the fewest allowed in a half by UVA since Georgia Tech’s 12-point second half on Jan. 22, 2015 (fewest in a first half since Harvard’s 8-point first half on Dec. 21, 2014)

UVA held SFB scoreless for 10:02 in the first half, extending a 15-11 lead to 35-11

UVA held SFB without a field goal for the final 12:48 of the first half and 14:29 total

UVA held an opponent to fewer than 40 points for the 15th time in Tony Bennett’s eight seasons

UVA is now 56-2 under Tony Bennett when limiting to opponents to fewer than 50 points

“Virginia is very disciplined in what they do. They don’t let you get to the basket, they trap the post, and they pressure the ball. For their offense, there is an argument of less is more. They don’t do a lot, but the things they do, they are great at.”  ~ St. Francis Coach Glenn Braica

I think I hit the nail on the head before the season when I used the phrase "ensemble offense."  After years of watching Mike Scott and then Joe Harris and then Malcolm Brogdon sort of dominate the shot count, it's refreshing to see a team that views multiple guys - anyone/everyone on the court - as potential go-to scorers, depending on matchups, situations, and the proverbial hot hand.  I kinda wonder if the ensemble effort is going to end up being a blessing (balance spreads opponents too thin), or a curse (lack of go-to scoring dooms us in close games), or both at different times.  I also wonder if Marial Shayok is actually going to allow this to be an ensemble effort, or if he's going to rise to the level of being out go-to bucket-getter.  (If he's not there already.  He has the look.)

My ongoing hypothesis is that trading Brogdon's elite-level perimeter defense for the presence of true live-wire shotblocking in the form of Austin Nichols, Mamadi Diakite, and an empowered Isaiah Wilkins is a net gain for the defense.  Of course, it doesn't hurt that we have so many upperclassmen on the perimeter now.  London Perrantes, Devon Hall, Marial Shayok, to a lesser extent Darius Thompson... these guys haven been percolating in the Pack Line for YEARS.  That experience matters.  It makes a difference.  Regardless, it's early, but I think our defense just might be better this season.

This is the deepest Virginia Basketball team I've ever seen.  I'm talking about QUALITY depth.  Tony will only go eight or nine deep in real games, but he could easily go 11.  Or burn the redshirts on Jay Huff and De'Andre Hunter and go 13.  Crazy, stupid amounts of depth.

Player-by-player observations and thoughts, in no particular order...

Austin Nichols -- He didn't start, and then when he got into the game he picked up two quick fouls and had to sit til the second half.  Once he was back in and eased into a bit of a rhythm, it was easy to see why he's been so highly regarded.  He's tall, strong, quick-footed, athletic, smooth, versatile.  I think his game is a bit more finesse-based that a lot of Hoofans have been expecting.  (We spent a lot of time watching Anthony Gill develop into the rugged badass he was last season, and Austin Nichols doesn't have that sort of game.)  Nichols likes to use his hook shot, a lot... maybe too much.  He's really animated on the court, and even during dead balls.  Kinda goofy, in a lovable sort of way.  He's a lot of fun to watch.  He hit the boards hard, like 'hit the boards hard' has been the primary decree pushed upon him by the coaching staff.  Aggressive defensive rebounding seems to be a primary focus for him right now.  I think he played well with both Jarred Reuter and Mamadi Diakite, showing good chemistry with both.  It's that ability to sort of fit in and mesh with his frontcourt mates (other than Isaiah Wilkins, none of the other guys really have that meshability that at this stage in the season) that will buoy Nichols' early PT, as Tony gets his rotations settled.  Nichols' game is very complementary to most of our other pieces and parts.  At the end of the day, I think there's little doubt that Nichols is out best overall big man, but I want to try to temper Hoofans' expectations here --- Nichols is not a star, at least not yet.  He'll score, rebound, block shots, defend, help us win, et cetera, he'll perfectly complement our other bigs, but he's not the kind of player to whom we can dump it down to in the post and trust to battle through doubles to go get tough buckets.  He's not that guy, at least not yet.  (And yeah, I got all of that from watching him play for 16 minutes against a shitty mid-major.)

London Perrantes -- He's the same London we know and love.  Don't worry about his 0-for-5 performance from deep, but maybe worry slightly about his 0-for-2 performance from the free throw line.  He's still a motherfucker, and it looks to me like his motherfuckerness has only grown during this past offseason, as he boiled over the Syracuse loss while realizing that it's his team to lead now.  Here's a short piece from Chris Graham that I think you should read, actually: "London Perrantes is the kind of guy you want leading you into battle."  There will be a handful of games this season, five or six of them, at least, in which a key London Perrantes shot is going to determine the winner.  It goes in, we win, it rims out, we lose.  He was 0-for-5 from deep against St. Francis, but I'm still expecting London to drill four of those six key, game-deciding shots this season.  Not to mention providing the perfect quarterbacking for this ensemble offense as the season moves along.

Marial Shayok -- Streaking the Lawn hinted at it, but let me go ahead and say it.  I'll even make it big and bold.  Marial Shayok is our best player.  He's the best pure scorer on the team.  He's a better defender than either Perrantes or Nichols.  He's one of two guys on the team who can consistently create his own shot (the other is Kyle Guy).  He came off the bench a little bit into the first half, and proceeded to score at will and bother the SFB offense.  I contend that between the wrist injury and the concussion(s?), Shayok was never right last season.  Now he's right... and man is he a weapon for us on both ends of the floor.  He'll either prove me right or wrong as the season grinds along, but I'm getting it out there now.  Marial Shayok is our best player.

Jack Salt -- Salt saw 16 minutes against St. Francis, hit a couple of layups and a dunk off of really good feeds from the ball handlers, and pulled down two rebounds.  Meh.  I really don't want to come across as a hater, but... meh.  He's big, he hustles, he rebounds, he can score when he's not bumped too much, he's becoming fundamentally sound... but he's limited.  I count four bigs that are better than him: Wilkins, Nichols, Reuter, and Diakite.  So any playing time Salt gets comes at the opportunity cost of a better player impacting the game more profoundly.  I like him as an end-of-bench 5th big who, when needed, can spell the guys in front of him, but that's about it.  His best potential utility in 2016-17 is to embrace the "five hard fouls" mentality and get in there and throw his body around in [very] limited minutes, but he seems hellbent on developing his game and trying to become a well-rounded, skilled, versatile big man.  Respect to him, I guess.  I just don't think he's going to help the 2016-17 Hoos very much.  (And then next year, we have Jay Huff coming off the redshirt, so Salt slides down one more seat and becomes the 6th big.)  I'm not bashful about pitching hot takes, so the windup... and the delivery... Tony made a mistake redshirting Salt in 2014-15.  The program would have been better served cycling through his scholarship more quickly, and/or giving him the option to transfer and sit out a year (if he transfers now, he'll lose a season of eligibility because he already redshirted.)  Salt played 16 minutes against SFB, but in a serious game with Austin Nichols not coming out of the doghouse, those 16 minutes should be closer to 6... or 3... or 0...

Jarred Reuter -- I sat next to a guy who didn't have this right, and it drove me nucking futs throughout the game, but I didn't want to be a dick by saying something to the dude... so let me vent that frustration now.  His name is "ROID-er," not "ROOT-er" or "RUDE-er."  It's "ROID-er."  Get the pronunciation right, dammit.  Think of hemorrhoids or steroids if it helps you, but get the fucking pronunciation right.  (I'll handle Diakite in a minute.)  So, Jarred Reuter... He's good, y'all.  Sneaky good.  Crafty.  Sound.  (That's a Tony Bennett word, "sound" and "soundness.")  Look, let's call a spade a spade; Reuter is short for a power forward.  He can't play much center, if any at all, just due to his vertically-challenged stature.  He's got a knack for using his low center of gravity and his big ass to his advantage; he clears space to operate, he's got good instincts on how plays develop, he gets open down low, he's got good, soft hands, and he's skilled at putting the biscuit in the basket.  He's a fine rebounder, maybe nothing special in that regard, but he boxes out like a champ.  Defensively, he'll struggle from time to time, but it's okay if/when he's playing alongside any of the shotblockers (Wilkins, Niochols, Diakite).  You probably don't want to see too much of the "Bang Bros" Reuter/Salt combo frontcourt, I suppose.  Against SFB, Reuter was our leading scorer in the first half (9 points), and easily could have gotten to 20 in this game if we didn't feature Nichols and the freshmen in the second half.  Reuter will sneak up on you -- he's skilled, and he can score.  I still struggle to envision a consistent game-in and game-out role for him this season, but I think we'll see him play and play well (read: score) when needed.

God damn right.
Mamadi Diakite -- "DEE-uh-KEY-tay."  Not {and I wince whilst typing this, embarrassed for those of you who have fucked this up til now} "DEE-uh-KITE."  Yeah, uh, um, this dude is legit.  Maybe a bit raw, but athletic as hell, aggressive, instinctive.  I don't want to gush, but he's just awesome.  14 minutes in his first game, 3-for-3 from the field (you can see a dunk, above), 4 rebounds, and a block into the stands.  The four fouls are reason for hesitation, but know this: he's going to be a star.  I get goosebumps thinking about the possibility of having him in orange and blue for the next four years.  His best is ahead of him, but it's pretty good already.  His challenge this season is cultivating a bit of fluidity in his offensive game.

Devon Hall -- In this game, he was steady-eddie, even-steven.  Nothing spectacular, but he was solid.  Important to note that he ran the point at various times when London was off the floor, and the offense didn't miss a beat.

Darius Thompson -- I think I might be guilty of under-estimating DT coming into this season.  He definitely brings an element of athleticism and physical play that we lack elsewhere in the backcourt.  He brings a certain edge, a certain swagger.  His shot looks better, more pure.  He hit the boards hard against St. Francis.  Maybe most importantly, he's clearly earned Tony Bennett's trust, so expect the ~20 minutes he played to be the norm for the season (unless Kyle Guy simply will not be denied playing time.)  DT is probably our best finisher on the break.  Wait, nope, that title belongs to...

Isaiah Wilkins -- I don't have a whole lot to say that I haven't said already.  Check it:
All the peripherals suggest that he's ready to take off this season. We already knew that he's a defensive force, and now it seems like his offense is catching up. He's kind of a positionless forward, but at this point in his development, he might be matchup-proof. I'm now looking for major minutes and flirtations with double-digit scoring this season.
I will note that Zay seemed to play more of an iron man role in this game.  I think he's in line for major, major minutes this season, as he supplies a lot of 'glue guy' stuff that we won't get anywhere else on the roster.  Like DT, it's clear that Wilkins has earned Tony's trust.

Kyle Guy -- Weird to say this in just second game of his UVA career, but it was a quiet game for Kyle Guy.  He looked good off the curl, hitting a pair of mid-range jumpers in the second half.  He's active, always moving, which is great to see.  I don't think he used his screens exceptionally well, but he's getting there.  2-for-4 from the field in 21 minutes of action constitutes a quiet game for Kyle Guy, I think.  Physically, he's small, but so clearly explosive and confident.  I am not tempering my expectations for him whatsoever... except to say that Shayok is going to lessen the need for Guy to handle so much of the scoring load.  There will be games where get 10 minutes and just a few points from Guy, and it'll be okay.  There will be other games where he plays 30 and scores 15-20.  I just wish people would build a fucking bridge and get over the man bun.

Ty Jerome -- His arms are short.  I never noticed that before, but he has kind of a T-Rex build.  Otherwise, I think he looked much better than he did in the scrimmage and against UNC-Greensboro.  I won't make any parallels with London Perrantes, except for saying that you can tell that Jerome has a similar kind of 'feel for the game' that Perrantes exhibited during his freshman season.  Jerome flashed a great eye for playmaking in this SFB game, and dropped a couple of truly nasty dimes.

Justice Bartley / Trevon Gross / Jeff Jones -- Doesn't really matter with a team this deep, but it bears mentioning that this is the best Green Machine we've had in Bennett's time at UVA.  Both Bartley and Gross seem capable of playing actual minutes, if needed.  (They won't be needed, of course.)  I do think the Green Machine will score points this season at the end of blowouts; like, they'll score more points than the backups and walk-ons usually score.

That's it!  GO HOOS!  BEAT YALE!


  1. Lots of typos. Will fix tomorrow.

  2. Am I the only one who is so over the Devon Hall hype? Like, he is decent, I guess. But he is far from our best player and I don't see that changing.

    Also, of course Ty has short arms - he is 11. Let him finish growing into his frame.

    1. I was done with Devon Hall after the Syracuse game. Gonna take a lot - a whole lot - for him to come back from that, in my eyes.

      I just kinda want Kyle Guy to take all of his minutes and be done with it. Hall is the Jack Salt of the backcourt.

    2. Hall is key for us this year because he can run the offense pretty well at this point. This is important because we do not have the shooting to be able to keep London at the 1 the whole time, even if he is our best point. This year, we will need to run London off the ball with some Joe Harris-type screen action and set him up for some looks. We did this a little bit last year, but it's even more important now that Malcolm's shooting/scoring is gone. London can shoot in the natural flow of the offense but I think he's good enough (and our offense needs the perimeter shooting threat enough) to run some designed sets to get him looks.

      Outside of Kyle Guy (I'm projecting), I don't see any other shooters on this team. We have guys who will hit their share of open looks (Hall, Shayok, Thompson to a lesser extent), but not guys who are above average shooters that worry a defense.

      To say Hall is the Jack Salt of our backcourt is saying he doesn't do anything that can't be replaced or that we need in a real game. That is clearly not the case, as he ended last year taking big defensive assignments (ex. Marcus Paige) and along with Shayok will be our best on-ball perimeter defender. He also helps with rebounding, not insignificant on this years team that goes from Gill, Tobey, and Wilkins to Wilkins, Nichols, and _____? I don't see Reuter getting rebounds against major competition, or Salt even playing against major competition. That leaves Diakite, who has worlds of potential but is unsure of his place on the court in our system at the moment. Hall's rebounding will help pick up the slack here.

  3. Just saw the the news Austin is off the basketball team. Good for them adhering to standards and setting a good example.

  4. Hope this means we let Mamadi learn on the fly. Also I would think Huff's redshirt comes off?

    1. Interestingly, I think your two comments are intertwined. If we want Mamadi to take a leap -- which will only come through playing time -- then perhaps leaving Huff's shirt on and playing Mamadi is the way to go.

      Nichols is a big loss, on paper, though we remain deep in the frontcourt, though not polished.