StLouHoo's Preview:

A New Year, a New Challenge

Marshall Thundering Herd

The defending C-USA tournament champs come to Charlottesville looking to knock off the top-ranked Hoos and earn a win they'll brag about for years. They scored an upset in last year's NCAA Tournament and they'll believe they can do the same this holiday weekend.

Game Details:

Date/Time:Monday, December 31st, 1:00 pm ET
Location:John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA


What 'They' Say

Vegas:UVA -20, O/U 136.5, equates to a 78-58 UVA win
TAPE:Ranks Marshall #116, predicts an 82-61 UVA win, 97% confidence
KenPom:Ranks Marshall #129, predicts a 79-60 UVA win, 96% confidence


Depth Chart:

PG#13 Jarrod West, 5'11" 185, SO
mpg, ppg, apg, 37.7% 3P%
SG#33 Jon Elmore, 6'3" 187, SR
mpg, ppg, apg, 37.0% 3P%
SF#14 C.J. Burks, 6'4" 185, SR
mpg, ppg, rpg, 48.0% FG%
PF#23 Rondale Watson, 6'4" 187, SR
mpg, ppg, rpg, 44.6% FG%
C#3 Jannson Williams, 6'9" 215, SO
mpg, ppg, rpg, 47.4% FG%
Key Reserves
G/F#1 Taevion Kinsey, 6'5" 177, FR
mpg, ppg, apg, 25.0% 3P%
F#21 Darius George, 6'7" 215, SO
mpg, ppg, rpg, 50.7% FG%
F#12 Ante Sustic, 6'10" 230, JR
mpg, ppg, rpg, 38.5% FG%
C#2 Iran Bennett, 6'9" 350, FR
mpg, ppg, rpg, 58.5% FG%


The ABC's of Marshall:

A) They're veteran winners. Last year's Herd team won 25 games, took the C-USA tournament title, and upset Wichita State in the 13-4 game before falling to in-state foe West Virginia. Marshall then returned all but one core rotation player from that team (Ajdin Penava elected to return to Europe). Expectations were high given that experience, with the rising senior duo of Elmore and Burks starting at the 2 and 3, each averaging nearly 20 points per game. But experience returns elsewhere, as sophomore PG West started 35 games last season and sophomore big man Williams played in every game, starting at the 4 throughout their postseason run. Add in senior utility guard Watson and you've got a team with the potential for a lot of veteran savvy and chemistry.

B) They play as fast as any team we'll see. Per KenPom, they run the 5th fastest offense in the country faster, on par with UNC and Duke, making this excellent preparation for our future Tobacco road foes. They'll look to get out in transition as much as they can, but even in half-court sets will settle for the first semi-open shot they can take, trying to exploit a defense that isn't totally set. In reality, this means the Herd are taking a lot of bad shots in the name of quick shots, and explains why their shooting percentages are merely average, both from deep (34.5% as a team, ranked 158th nationally) and from 2 (52.2%, 134th nationally). It also leads to some sloppy play, as they are below average in having the ball stolen, so their offense can be exploited.

C) They're a bad rebounding team. They're running a smaller lineup than in years past with sophomore forward (Staunton, VA product) Darius George and guard Rondale Watson splitting most of the time at the 4-spot, neither particularly frightening on the glass on either end. 5-men Williams and Bennett similarly fail to dominate on the glass. As a team they rank 230th nationally in offensive rebounding (27%) and 329th nationally on the defensive end (65.3%). We'll have a size advantage and an athleticism advantage at the 4 and 5, maybe at the 3 as well when we go big with Dre as a mover, and should feast on the glass on both ends.


Their Season To Date

Marshall is 7-5 on the season. They've lost to two P5 opponents so far, to Maryland by 37 after Thanksgiving and to Texas A&M by 24 before Christmas. Their best wins are by 4 at home over KenPom #105 Hofstra and by 1 at KenPom #115 Akron.


Keys to getting the win:

1) Set up the defense quickly. Marshall doesn't want to run their offense against a set, half-court defense. Their goal is to get a shot up in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock if at all possible (The Herd coach is Dan D'Antoni, brother of Rocket's coach Mike D'Antoni, who runs a similar up-tempo offense), trying to exploit confusion in transition and the process of picking up a man defense. Virginia will need good discipline getting back after missed shots and turnovers. And of course, fewer turnovers mean fewer transition opportunities to defend, leading us to #2...

2) Protect the ball. Marshall's defense doesn't do a lot particularly well, hence why their adjusted defensive efficiency ranks only 134th in D-1 (not bad, but not great). They don't hold teams to low shooting percentages (214th in def 3P%, 199th in def 2P%). They don't control the defensive glass (329th in DR%). What they do well is turn the ball over, 17th in the country in TO% (23.9%), and 23rd in live ball steal percentage (12%). No opponent has had fewer than 15 TOs against the Herd this year, and even Maryland had 19. Live ball, the Herd have grabbed double-digit steals 7 times. The Hoos must excel in this area to take the Herd out of their gameplan. We've only had double digit TO games 4 times this year, and only given up more than 4 steals in three games. Securing the ball prevents Marshall from getting into their transition O, and it lets us run half-court offense against a Herd defense that's struggled all year against sets.

3) Dominate the charity stripe. Marshall has at times been losing opportunities at the free throw line. They're in the bottom 25% nationally both in getting to the FT line and in putting opponents on it. Against Maryland the discrepancy was 36 FTAs to 14. Against Morehead St it was 27 to 17. Virginia's been more aggressive this year looking to draw fouls with contact at the rim, and Marshall presents another opportunity here. Freshman big man Iran Bennett commits an insane 9 fouls per 40 minutes and should be attacked every minute he's on the floor. Wings Watson and Kinsey and big man Beyers also struggle with whistles. Foul trouble for the Herd, and padding our lead from the stripe, could be the factor that cements Virginia control in this game.




This game looks less worrisome than it did to me a few months ago. The returning production from their C-USA crown and Wichita State upset caught my eye, but blowout losses to both P5 programs they've faced this year, to say nothing of losses to some middleweights, takes a lot of the wind out of Marshall's sails. Virginia controls the ball (#2 nationally in limiting turnovers) and the tempo better than most anyone, and if Marshall can't create turnovers and can't speed up the game, then UVA will be in a comfortable rhythm for 40 minutes. Elmore and Burks will do some damage, but UVA's counter of Ty and Kyle is beyond sufficient, and the 5-11 West is exactly the sort of PG that Kihei Clark is well designed to counter.

UVA wins this one with wings Hunter and Key (do I smell a breakout game for the transfer?), whose size and athleticism are more than the Herd should be able to handle.

Hoos Win 73-58