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StLouHoo's Preview:

A Visit from TJ

William & Mary Tribe

Virginia returns home from a 17 point road victory in South Carolina to welcome a struggling, but historically solid, William and Mary squad. It's been three years since the Tribe last knocked off an ACC squad (NC State in 2015, putting a nail in Mark Gottfried's coffin), but are they really a threat to UVA this year?

Game Details:

Date/Time:Saturday, December 22nd, 2:00 pm ET
Location:John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA
TV:ACCX

 

What 'They' Say

Vegas:
TAPE:Ranks W&M #210, predicts a 78-54 UVA win, 99% confidence
KenPom:Ranks W&M #184, predicts a 78-56 UVA win, 97% confidence

 

Depth Chart:

Starters
PG#12 Luke Loewe, 6'4" 192, SO
18.8 mpg, 2.9 ppg, 1.3 apg, .100 3P%
SG#2 Matt Milon, 6'5" 195, JR
26.7 mpg, 12.0 ppg, 1.5 apg, .400 3P%
SF#22 Paul Rowley, 6'8" 205, SR
16.8 mpg, 7.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, .475 FG%
PF#23 Justin Pierce, 6'7" 215, JR
33.1 mpg, 17.6 ppg, 10.2 rpg, .487 FG%
C#13 Nathan Knight, 6'10" 235, JR
27.7 mpg, 19.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg, .589 FG%
Key Reserves
G#11 L.J. Owens, 6'3" 165, FR
25.8 mpg, 9.4 ppg, 1.5 apg, .417 3P%
G/F#15 Chase Audige, 6'4" 190, FR
25.0 mpg, 8.1 ppg, 1.7 apg, .342 3P%
G/F#1 Thornton Scott, 6'5" 178, FR
20.6 mpg, 2.8 ppg, 2.9 apg, .318 3P%
PF#30 Mehkel Harvey, 6'9" 200, FR
6.8 mpg, 0.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg, .375 FG%

 

The ABC's of William & Mary:

A) They want to go inside. W&M's offense is an inside-out attack, with all-CAA center Nathan Knight their runaway best player. The 6-10, 235 lb junior is doing it all, scoring (19.1 ppg), and rebounding (7.6 rpg, 2.2 offensive) to start, but also passing well out of the post collecting 3.1 assists a game. Similarly, junior forward Justin Pierce scores (17.6 ppg) and rebounds (10.2 rpg, 2.3 offensive) and also distributes (3.6 apg). Post double against these two are likely dangerous as they know how to find the open man. Salt, Diakite, Key, and Hunter will need to defend them straight up.

B) They're not shooting like they usually do. This isn't to say W&M isn't a good offensive team; thanks to Knight and Pierce they absolutely are. But so far they're a step behind the elite offenses they've rolled out in recent years because they're not hitting 3's like they're accustomed to. Last year the Tribe led the nation in team 3-point shooting at 42.2% collectively. They lost some elite-shooting seniors in David Cohn and Connor Burchfield, but did return some proven production. It's not quite manifesting yet, though. Knight is trying to be a stretch 5 but only hitting 29% so far. Pierce, who topped 41% from 3 last year, is down to just 31% this season, but still jacking up 5 3PA a game. Rowley has regressed from 43% to 33% so far. As a team, they're down to just 34.4% collectively this season. Virginia will have to ensure they stay cold from deep (we hold teams to just 26% from 3, 5th nationally) to keep them one dimensional.

C) They're losing games because of their defense. There really isn't anything the Tribe have done consistently well on defense this year. They're not forcing turnovers (338th nationally), they're letting teams shoot efficiently from deep (39.6% 3p% allowed, 331st) or from two (54.2%, 278th). They don't block a ton of shots. About the only thing they do well is not foul. Silver linings I guess. They've given up at least 70 points in every game, and at least 80 in 7 of their 11 games.

 

Their Season To Date

William and Mary is 4-7 on the season, with a loss to their only other P5 opponent, Notre Dame, in November. Their best win was by 2 points over St Joe's, and have bad losses to Duquense and Illinois-Chicago. They're on a 2-game win streak vs Hampton and D-II William Peace.

 

Keys to getting the win:

1) Dominate the turnover battle. We've already talked about how poorly W&M's defense generates turnovers. But on offense, as good as they are at scoring in the paint, one major component holding their offense back has been carelessness with the ball. The Tribe rank 221st nationally in offensive TO% at 19.9% (1 out of every 5 possessions), but even worse than that is the rate at which those are live ball steals, ranking 33nd nationally, meaning a number of transition opportunities they give up. Virginia's defense is right around the 10th percentile in forcing turnovers (both dead and live ball) and needs to disrupt the W&M offense before their bigs even get an opportunity to get a shot up.

2) Keep the reserves involved. Coming off a road game just a few nights earlier, this is the kind of opportunity that our reserves need to continue to round into form, whether it be Anthony continuing to grow, Diakite building off a good game in South Carolina, Key further improving his comfort level with the Hoos, or Clark still working back from injury. The Tribe ride their starters pretty hard, and being able to throw fresh bodies at them as the game wears on will give us a real advantage.

3) Be aggressive. This is not a defense that our offense will need to pick apart with crafty off-ball screens and patient ball movement. This is a defense that is best attacked aggressively. Don't overthink this. Play downhill, attack the paint, find the open shooters (and there will be plenty), and give their defense no chance to rest.

 

 

Predictions:

I've complained about our strength of schedule thus far, which is one of the weaker non-conference slates faced by P5 programs. Get into the numbers and that's primarily because we've faced a lot of bad offenses; through 10 games we've only faced 3 KenPom Top 100 offenses (Dayton, Wisconsin, and Maryland). By contrast we've faced 6 KenPom Bottom 100 offenses (VCU squeaks in as the 99th worst).

William and Mary, for as rough a season as they've had, actually checks in with a Top 100 offense (70th), and could prove an intriguing test for our defense, which has largely been on autopilot this year. Our offense should be able to cruise, assuming it plays to its potential. So this game will come down to our ability to get stops against one of the better mid-major offenses in the country.

We've got an ace in the hole with Salt being a great defensive matchup for Knight, but Pierce presents an interesting challenge as the type of athletic 4 that's historically given us fits. But our backcourt should be able to stymie theirs, meaning ultimately you're asking their bigs to try and outscore our entire offense, which frankly isn't meant to be.

Hoos Win 73-58