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StLouHoo's Preview:

Some Bears Before the Turkey

Maine Black Bears

After a hard-fought tournament victory in Connecticut, the Hoos are back home this week for a relative breather against Maine. Virginia's schedule ramps up in difficulty after Thanksgiving; will Maine be able to catch UVA unawares between more heavyweight clashes?

Game Details:

Date/Time:Wednesday, November 27th, 4:00 pm ET
Location:John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA
TV:ACCN

 

What 'They' Say

Vegas:UVA -29, O/U 105, equates to a 67-38 UVA win
Torvik:Ranks Maine #290, predicts a 64-44 UVA win, 99% confidence
KenPom:Ranks Maine #316, predicts a 66-40 UVA win, 99% confidence

 

Depth Chart:

Starters
PG#25 Sergio El Darwich, 6'4" 205, SR
35.6 mpg, 12.6 ppg, 4.8 apg, 24.0 3P%
SG#1 Mykhailo Yagodin, 6'5" 195, SO
20.3 mpg, 5.7 ppg, 2.0 apg, 25.0 3P%
SF#5 Nedeljko Prijovic, 6'8" 210, JR
34.0 mpg, 11.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 51.2 FG%
PF#0 Andrew Fleming, 6'7" 222, SR
32.4 mpg, 20.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 58.0 FG%
C#3 Vilgot Larsson, 6'8" 215, JR
29.2 mpg, 7.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 41.9 FG%
Key Reserves
G#21 Precious Okoh, 6'1" 188, FR
12.8 mpg, 2.4 ppg, 0.6 apg, 15.4 3P%
F#10 Stephane Ingo, 6'9" 200, FR
11.0 mpg, 2.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 40.0 FG%
C#13 Miks Antoms, 6'8" 245, JR
13.5 mpg, 3.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 53.8 FG%

 

The ABC's of Maine:

A) Andrew Fleming is one of the AEC's Best Players. The senior forward is coming off a solid junior year (13.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg) that saw him earn 2nd-team all conference honors. This year the AEC media voted him preseason 1st team and thus far he's delivered. On well over 30% usage, he's scoring over 20 ppg, rebounding about the same as last year, blocking a shot a game, and is slowly trying to get his 3-point shot dialed in (3-5 over the last two games). He splits his time between the 3 and the 4, and with Braxton and Kody questionable, he'll likely see a rotation of Diakite, McKoy, and Woldetensae on the defensive assignment.

B) They're a veteran starting lineup. Maine has four players averaging over 29 mpg (Fleming, El Darwich, Larsson, and Prijovic), and it's an experienced group with two seniors and two juniors. Fleming is in his fourth year with the Bears, Larsson and El Darwich in their second season active, and Prijovic in his second year on campus after sitting out last season (TX State transfer). With head coach Richard Barron similarly in his second year in the job, that means there's a bit of continuity and chemistry established in the starting lineup. After that, though, and Maine leans heavily on an unheralded freshman group for their depth.

C) They've got great size on the perimeter. While the Black Bears lack a true post threat, with no one taller than 6'8" and only one heavier than 220 lbs, they've got great size at the 1-3. Their starting backcourt features a 6'4" El Darwich, a 6'5" Yagodin, and a 6'8" Prijovic, with the 6'7" Fleming often sliding over to the 3. That does create some benefits to the defense where they're better able to obscure sight lines and challenge shooters, while allowing them to shoot over smaller guards. They'll be bigger than us at all three guard spots in this one, creating a unique challenge for Virginia on both ends of the floor.

 

Their Season To Date

Maine is 2-3 on the year. After opening up with a 20 point home win over Merrimack, the Black Bears dropped three straight road games to Harvard (by 21), Portland (9), and Washington (19). Most recently they picked up a 40 point home win over Division-III Maine Maritime.

 

Keys to getting the win:

1) Attack the passing lanes. They're really trying to share the ball, for better or worse. The effectiveness of that attack is debatable, especially against tougher competition, but coach Barron is preaching ball movement as part of their attack. It's proven a double-edged sword. When Maine scores, they do so with an assist on 68% of their buckets, a rate that ranks 7th nationally.

But all that ball movement is making life easy on opposing defenses to get their hands on the ball and flip possession. The Bears turn the ball over at the 54th highest rate nationally, 23.5% of the time. Even worse is their offensive steal rate, meaning defenses get a live ball steal 13.9% of their possessions which is 5th worst in the country. The Washington Huskies got 11 steals from Maine and Harvard got 12. Virginia's defensive rotations needs to feast on Maine's attempted ball movement.

2) Fresh faces need to step up. We entered this year already depth-challenged, and in this game against Maine that could really be exacerbated. Both Kody (illness, missed last three games) and Braxton (wrist, injured vs ASU) are questionable. Worst case scenario that leaves us with a starting lineup of Clark, Morsell, Woldetensae, Diakite, and Huff, with Caffaro, McKoy, and Coleman in reserve. We can go 8 deep and win, but that group includes 5 fresh faces playing significant minutes. Morsell emerged against Arizona State, but the rest are all still looking to arrive. Of the five newcomers, I'll be looking for at least two, preferably three to play a plus game in this one.

3) Attack the rim. The Bears aren't necessarily a scary defensive team, but they do use their size on the perimeter to harass and effectively defend shooters on the 3-point line. Opponents are hitting a 12th-lowest nationally 24.2% on 3's against them, and as such usually deciding to go inside from the start, rarely pulling up from deep. As Maine doesn't feature a dangerous rim protector, and Diakite/Huff/Papi will all have size and length advantages on the interior, UVA would be silly not to use its offensive sets to go inside early and often.

 

 

Predictions:

Expect the Hoos to make quick work of this one. Maine was picked to finish second-to-last in the America East by their media in the preseason. Fleming is a good player and may even do some damage in this one, but the supporting cast leaves a lot to be desired.

Unless turnovers turn into transition opportunities for the Hoos, this is going to be a low-possession game, potentially more so than usual. Maine's offensive pace is actually slower than ours (we rank 351st, they rank 352nd). That may keep the Hoos' final point tally kind of low, but also means Maine may be the third team this year the Hoos keep below 40.

Were the Hoos at full strength, I'd probably predict a bigger margin here and foresee another early appearance for the walk-ons. But as it is, let's content ourselves with another comfortable double digit win and enjoy our Thanksgiving break before Virginia eyes up Purdue and UNC in early December.

Hoos Win 62-45