Wednesday, November 10, 2010

bastaball, part 2

Continued from yesterday....

#15 - Billy Baron

Best-case: No change in the minutes he gets after Sammy Zeglinski returns from his knee injury.

Worst-case: Overwhelmed. Point guard duties with Evans out of the game fall to some combination of Harris, Harrell, and Farrakhan until Zeglinski returns.

In a perfect world Billy Baron could get his feet wet playing the 2 and get some low-pressure minutes at the 1 when the opponent is USC-Upstate or Howard. In a perfect world Sammy Zeglinski's various joints that keep him upright wouldn't keep bugging out on him. Instead, Baron is your default backup point guard, which means he's in for serious minutes in a pressure situation.

Baron is actually older than your average freshman, having spent a year at prep school in order to play basketball against better competition than he had in high school. This inspires a certain level of confidence. As does his being a coach's son. "Overwhelmed" is the worst-case, because it's the default worst-case for any freshman point guard, but there's little reason to believe Baron is in any danger of that. Standard stuff about how if he can shoot he'll be infinitely more valuable goes here, but if he can just be a better-shooting version of Evans without the yard-dog defense, while probably running less of the offense until he catches up, then that's a win.

#22 - Will Sherrill

Best-case: Is able to shut down the opposition's bench players.

Worst-case: Forced to try and shut down the opposition's starters.

Sherrill wormed his way into the rotation by being better than anyone else at doing the things Bennett demands but nobody sees on TV, like footwork on defense, setting screens, and generally always being in the right place at the right time. Excellent basketball sense. Unfortunately, he's also inordinately slow, can't jump, and is strong like ferret. Ivy League athleticism to go along with his Ivy League mind.

He's largely a defensive player, therefore. Other than a couple SUPRIZE big-man three pointers and some putbacks, he won't be scoring. If the rest of the team is performing well enough in the Bennett-demanded facets of basketball, Sherrill can come off the bench and probably do a pretty good job against the other team's backups. If Sherrill is a starter, he'll almost certainly be physically outmatched.

#23 - Mike Scott

Best-case: As with last year, double-double machine. Also, emotional team leader who sparks game-winning second-half runs.

Worst-case: Overdoes the emotion thing, goes on tilt, gets streaky, occasionally gets benched and/or tossed out of a game.

Mike Scott has a way of letting things get to him. When Dave Leitao announced to the team that he'd been fired, it was Scott that stormed immediately out of the room, overturning innocent trash cans in his wake. He has a way, sometimes, of letting that get out on the court, too, and it's not always constructive.

But it often is. Scott has a nose for rebounds, a jump shot (which he probably uses too much), and some soft-touch post moves. He can be streaky, disappearing from some games and dominating others. The key this season will be to channel that emotion positively and let it work for him, not against him. He's a senior captain, so it's imperative he make that effort. More than anyone else on the team, he's got the capacity to get the JPJA fired up beyond belief, and if things are going well he'll probably be the most visible guy on the court. If not, he'll be conspicuous in all the wrong ways.

#24 - K.T. Harrell

Best-case: Nothing less than the ACC Freshman of the Year.

Worst-case: J.R. Reynolds-level willingness to shoot, Mustapha Farrakhan-level consistency.

Harrell is probably going to assume the mantle of primary perimeter scorer. Yes, the competition for top freshman is fierce, especially with Harrison Barnes at UNC and Kyrie Irving at Duke. If those guys are productive starters, one of those two will get that award based largely on the uniform they wear.

But the talent level on the respective teams means Harrell will have more chances to shine. Granted, I've set the bar a little higher for Harrell than the other freshmen. But they're largely specialists, at least to start out. Harrell has a chance to lead the team in scoring. I don't know whether it's a good sign or a bad sign if he does, but he might.

The problem will be if he starts feeling the need to do too much. Which will happen if the rest of the team can't also score a little. Inconsistency is the hallmark of freshmen, and it's a flat guarantee for freshmen who the opposition keys in on because the rest of the team doesn't scare them. The other concern is that Harrell gets bypassed by other players because of their performance, or his lack thereof, of the Bennett-demanded facets of the game. (I might need to start abbreviating that.) Bennett's proven himself beyond willing to bench talent in favor of guys who play his system better. Because Harrell was handpicked by Bennett, unlike for example Tristan Spurlock, the chances of that are much smaller. But still.

#25 - Akil Mitchell

Best-case: Will Sherrill, only athletic.

Worst-case: Redshirts.

As with Regan, that's worst-case for this year for Mitchell personally, because it means zero out of him, but not even remotely the worst thing that could happen big-picture.

Anyway, Mitchell and Sherrill are about the same size and play about the same role. But Sherrill's knowledge of the system is impeccable and Mitchell's is an unknown quantity right now. It's not likely Mitchell will, in just one season, know the whens and wheres like Sherrill does, but if he can mimic it passably enough, he'd represent a galactic athleticism boost.

In any case, Mitchell is definitely one of the biggest wild cards of the class. The proverbial X-factor. How Akil Mitchell does this year will affect practically every other frontcourt player except for Mike Scott. Because he's such an unknown, he's the hardest to project, but my initial thought is that if Mitchell excels, the domino effect will be tremendous, allowing a number of other players to fill more natural roles.

#34 - James Johnson

Best-case: Forms a potent 1-2 punch down low with Mike Scott.

Worst-case: Garbage time only.

Besides Assane Sene, Johnson is the biggest dude we got, so he'll be given every chance and then some to succeed. If he plays defense the way Bennett wants, I think the offense will come naturally. Optimally, Johnson could either be able to spell Scott alongside someone like Sene or Sherrill, or play alongside Scott if Bennett wants to go big on offense. The former can happen if his offensive game develops, and the latter, if his defense is where it should be.

I don't like to think of the possibility, because it'd leave a big hole in the frontcourt, but a lack of defense means he'll sit. Frontcourt is where Bennett has his options - I wouldn't say he has depth, because that would mean he has options of more or less equal quality. Not really the case, but there are options, and whoever plays the least defense, sits. If that's Johnson he'll be a human victory cigar (or, uh, loss cigar), because, being as big as he is and as skilled as he hopefully is, he's one of the most important building blocks.


It should be said here that these "best-cases" are set up so that they really can't all come true at once. Mostly for the freshmen. They're going to get in each others' way at first, because there aren't enough minutes to go around so that all of them can play huge roles. But they'll all have their chances. The rotation, obviously, isn't going to be too well set until the ACC season is well underway. And some of these guys are going to end up stashed on the bench pretty permanently, once that rotation settles: Bennett only wants nine or ten, which means a couple odd men out. Who might that be? Damn near impossible to say right now.

I make no predictions for the course of the season, except for very general ones. There should be a minimum of seven wins to be found in the nonconference schedule, barring any oh-shits coming our way from someone like William & Mary. Assuming the 50/50 games like LSU and Stanford turn out just that way - 50/50 - then you're talking nine or so wins in the OOC. That means in order to improve on last year's 15-16 mark, we need to also improve on our showing in the ACC itself. As ever, that's a tough road. So when they say UVA is about the 11th best team in the conference, they're probably right. The results will be what they be, but the real takeaways from the season aren't going to be in the win/loss columns.


Adam said...

Time to queue up the recruit profiles. Big question here, its still way early, does Bennett hold the last scholarship for class of '12, or go for a JC transfer, or blow it here and have 9 scholarships invested in 2 classes??

Brendan said...

I almost always do the basketball profiles as soon as they commit, so here they are from over the summer:




No way Bennett uses the last scholarship on 2011, and the chances of a JUCO guy are only slightly higher. Either would have to be an absolutely perfect situation. Got four for next year, which is a solid number. You don't want to put yourself in a position of absolutely having to have another massive class in a few years.

Anonymous said...

I'm a UVa basketball fan first and foremost, and I have to say I'm thrilled at the recruiting class Bennett has put together. (I'm also thrilled with Bennett in general -- way to go, Littlepage.)

They looked good last night -- not the toughest competition they'll face, obviously, but they'll only get better from here. I think this freshman class, under Bennett's system, is going to hugely surprise people this year. I'm ready for Bennett to put the Hoos back on the map!