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HOOS Place
Independent analysis and commentary on Virginia Basketball
Department: The Team

A Premonition of Nigel

Posted on June 5, 2017, by Seattle Hoo.

In working on State of the Nation Part V, I went to the archives thanks to Fight Club and unspooled the February 28, 2013, Joe Harris-led upset over #3 Duke.  Breaking down the video was an wonderful little exercise within the context of current issues with the program.  I teased out several thematic threads from the game, not least of which was in watching Jontel Evans play.  The more I saw of Jontel, the more I thought of Nigel Johnson, whose meager Rutgers highlight reel I had recently digested.

The more I watched Jontel Evans, the more I saw how Coach Bennett envisioned using Nigel Johnson

Watching Evans run isolation and slice through the defense, watching him and Akil Mitchell wear Duke out with pick-and-roll, put the sword to the whole "Bennett's offense won't let a point guard create with the dribble" mantra everybody believes.  I was watching Jontel Evans do it.  Four years before it became a big issue.  Watching Evans play was ...

State of the Nation: Part IV

Posted on July 13, 2017, by Seattle Hoo.

The Roster Four-Year Forecast

Previous: Specific Coaching Errors of 2016-17

When the season started in November 2016, the Cavaliers expected to lose just one player and the only scholarship projected to be available was filled by Marco Anthony.  We all know what happened.  First came the dismissal of Austin Nichols that opened up a second scholarship for the class of 2017-18.  Then came three transfers at the end of the season.  Suddenly an off-season of relative stability became one of big change.  Two additional players were recruited.  Two more scholarships are available for 2017, but most likely will not be filled.  As of the date of publication, below is the four-year roster projection:

2017-18

Scholarship Players: 11

Yr Players Redshirt
Senior
Junior

 

Sophomore
Freshmen

State of the Nation: Part III

Posted on July 13, 2017, by Seattle Hoo.

Specific Coaching Errors of 2016-17

Previous: Strategic Choices and Consequences

Having come this far, I am going to be so bold as to make specific criticisms.  While I do think that the team accomplished a lot, and it was really fun following them, I cannot shake off a nagging belief that there was untapped potential there, and that we missed an opportunity by not transitioning to the new paradigm.

1) Turning London Perrantes into a high usage shooting guard.  After considerable research and much thought, I have decided that this topic is its own essay, as it involves one of the things that I have always disliked about Bennett's system.  London did a good job of becoming a high usage shooting guard - he had in many ways his best season as a scorer while at the same time being arguably more efficient than at any other time in his career - but in other ways his effectiveness suffered.  He was more efficient as a scorer in his junior year when his usage percentage ...

State of the Nation: Part II

Posted on July 13, 2017, by Seattle Hoo.

Strategic Choices and Consequences

Previous: A Program In Transition

When the 2015-16 season ended in Chicago, we knew that the overwhelming majority of production was leaving and the 2016-17 team would be virtually brand new.  The leading returning scorer was London Perrantes at 11ppg.  Next was Isaiah Wilkins at 4.6ppg.  Devon Hall, Darius Thompson and Marial Shayok came in at 4.4ppg, 4.3ppg and 4.3ppg.  The leading returning rebounder was Wilkins at 4.1 rpg.  Perrantes was next at 3.0rpg.  Of the returning players, only Perrantes had established any kind of major scoring potential.  Shayok had at least flashed the possibility of being able to score a lot of points.  Given the other holes in his game, it was far from certain he would be able to emerge as a reliable replacement for the offensive production lost with Malcolm Brogdon.

 The upward potential of the team was going to be provided by the incoming class.  Of course,...

State of the Nation: Part I

Posted on July 13, 2017, by Seattle Hoo.

A Program In Transition

Until fairly recently, I took it as an article of faith that our best years were ahead of us, that things like Final Fours were just a matter of time.  But the implosion of the offense in February and dissolving of the rotation in March, followed by the mass transfers and the sudden need for depth, has left me to conclude that continued ascension can not simply be anticipated.  Staying where we are cannot simply be anticipated.  It is entirely possible that next year could see UVA on the NCAA bubble, fighting for its tournament life, come February.  It is entirely possible that we will have signed a disappointing recruiting class.  It is possible that the program has plateaued.

It is also likely that none of those things happen.  It is entirely possible that next year could see UVA earning a top seed in the NCAA tournament and going all the way.  The 2018 class could kick ass.  The program could burst into the top rank ...

The last two years have given a lot of clues as to Tony Bennett's ideal roster makeup.  Below is my current understanding of how Bennett wants a roster to look.

13 Scholarship Players

Having a full load ensures you can always have good practices, and protects against unexpected problems.  A couple injuries or an unexpected departure won't leave you short of players.

2 Current Redshirts

While having 13 scholarship players at all times means you will have plenty of players, Bennett believes that more than 11 eligible players is too many to work into a rotation.  He wants to have two players who can practice and make the team better, but who he doesn't have to think about as part of a rotation.  He's not going to form a Blue Team like Dean Smith did, or rely on a war of attrition like Leonard Hamilton with the 2016-17 Florida State Seminoles.  Transfers are great for this - they have to sit out a year, so you don't have to have the uncomfortable conversation...

Fighting the Luck of the Irish

Posted on March 13, 2017, by Seattle Hoo.

You knew it had to end eventually.  One good team cannot beat another good team forever.  Eventually, the other team will win.  

It ended with a thud.

It began with a slew of jump shots.  Virginia's first shots were all jump shots.  One went down.  Heck, Notre Dame's first shots were all jump shots, too.  They hit some.  Vasturia, Colson and Farrell looked good taking them.  Guy's shot you knew wasn't going in before it left his hand.  I often think Hall should miss that first stepback jumper so he doesn't think every later one is a good shot.  

This team's aversion to going to the rim was on full display.  The lack of aggression that I have talked about all year was front and center.

Nice post move by Isaiah.  He has been showing them of late.  This one was a step through.  He went for the jump hook, Bonzie reacted, and then he stepped through for the layup.  Isaiah now has the jump hook, the step...

Early Offense

Posted on February 21, 2017, by Seattle Hoo.

An increasing number of us seem to think that it would benefit the Hoos to seek more early offense opportunities.  Bennettistas push back with all the normal arguments, as if there can't be a good shot early in the shot clock.  But in the midst of this horrendous slump, we've seen a few examples of what early offense can do.  Here is one from the Duke game.

Not every early shot is a bad shot

The shot went up with :25 on the shot clock.  The defense wasn't ready, and Ty was able to get a clean look in rhythm.

Another example of early offense is London not shying away from challenging a defender in the lane.

Going hard to the rim in transition yields good results

Taking it hard to the rim despite the presence of a shot blocker under the basket resulted in free throws here and a foul on Duke's big man.  In the right game, that foul could prove to be crucial late in the game when the opposing big man either gets fouls out or has to...

Hall Sours Yum! Tummies

Posted on January 23, 2017, by Seattle Hoo.

I wrote this before the Louisville game, now let’s look at what I said about Hall’s role in the game, and then at the end take a look at what he did:

A key player against Louisville is going to be Devon Hall.  The graduated junior has had his ups and downs this season, but he does so many things for the Hoos, and his contributions will be crucial against Louisville.  The Cardinals have a big, physical defense that hits both backboards hard (rebounding and shooting).

Devon has made his biggest contributions on offense driving hard toward the basket and finding the open man, or going all the way to the cup if the defense does not react to him; and on finding the soft spots on the weak side where he is a reliable catch-and-shoot marksman.  This complementary role suits him, and it makes the other players more reliable.  These are the ways he can most help the Hoos beat the Louisville defense.

Hall has been effective driving into the lane...

Risky Business

Posted on November 29, 2016, by Seattle Hoo.

Big news on the night of the UNC-Greensboro game was that Tony Bennett announced the intended voluntary redshirts of top 75 recruits Jay Huff and De'Andre Hunter.  The practice of voluntary redshirts and the rarity of the practice with highly-rated recruits has been the subject of much discussion.  It is a bold and risky strategy and that other coaches are going to use it against him with other top kids.  It does appear that just as other negative recruiting items against Virginia are being knocked down, he's given his competition another big one.  But, it can work if he can always get first pick of the kind of kids he wants.  If we become the premier "elite student" athlete program, where the kids/families who want the college education and have other goals beyond just the NBA but also have top 50 talent all want to go, then he will be able to get enough top players to keep the program elite.  So, he is positioning himself to sell academics against...