Thursday, November 10, 2011

basketball preview part 1

It's weird approaching basketball season this year: I'm more excited for it than I have been in a while, and yet it's not a relief any more that it's here, because football is still doing work.

To commemorate the upcoming season, it's time for the preview as always.  In the past this has taken the form of a best-case and worst-case scenario for each player.  I'm still going to mini-capsule all the players, but I'm tweaking the formula just a little.  Splitting it up into two, though, which is normal.  Half the players today, half on Friday. Yes, special day on Friday. Normally I don't post anything Fridays during the football season unless something big comes up - this is because I do the game preview late on Thursday and I want that to be the top post on Saturday so it's right there - but it's basketball season and you should be hyped for this.  So we get all special up in here.

#0 - Doug Browman
#30 - Thomas Rogers

What they bring: We're combining the walk-ons into one category here.  Are either of them the next Will Sherrill?  Probably not.  Not that they can't play, but Sherrill's PT was the result of a rare combination: One, Sherrill was exceptionally smart.  Like, 99th percentile smart.  It made up for the fact that he was strong like flea.  Two, Tony Bennett was installing a new system, players were getting hurt a little bit, and Sherrill was the quickest on the team to pick up on it.  Bennett is a true-to-his-word kind of guy, and played the people who played like he wanted, and that was Will Sherrill, even if it meant leaving a lot of talent on the bench.  Now that the talent has caught up to the execution, the walk-ons are back to racking up memberships in Club Trillion.

What we need: For them to run the starters ragged in practice so that games are easy.

#1 - Jontel Evans

What he brings: First off, a lot more hair.  Plus, Bub's reputation as an excellent on-ball defender is not without reason.  He had 40 steals last year; only three UVA players in the last decade - Sean Singletary, Travis Watson, and Chris Williams - have reached that number.  So, the 2nd or 3rd best UVA hoopster of all time, and then back to the Gillen era.  Evans's ability to run the offense as the point guard improved in fits and starts last year.  His best was better than as a freshman, but he had his "moments" too.  His off-ball defense cost him some minutes in favor of Sammy Zeglinski.

Evans will probably never be a scoring point guard, but in general the offense runs well with him at the point.  His shot is decent, but not to be relied on.

What we need: If I could pick one thing to see Evans improve on, it'd be free-throw shooting.  Sub-.600 just isn't good enough for a guard, and if Evans is a spotty free-throw shooter then he can't have the ball in his hands at the end of a game.  He's the point guard, so that's not ideal.  He must continue to steadily improve his command of the offense, and a little more confidence in his shot wouldn't hurt.  His three-point shooting isn't going to scare anyone, but he can hit it enough to keep them honest.  But he passed up a ton of open ones last season.  Overall, Evans is plenty good enough to play the point in the ACC; the next step is doing it confidently and consistently.

#2 - Paul Jesperson

What he brings: Jesperson is a freshman who may redshirt; he's 6'6" and under 200 pounds (that is, scrawny.)  If he doesn't redshirt, what he'll be expected to do is shoot.  As of now, he's the kind of player you bring in off the bench and hope that he can loosen up the defense a little, maybe hit a few shots to swing some momentum.  Probably not much else will be expected.  Jesperson's size might create a mismatch if he's defended with a regular-sized guard, which he can shoot over top of.  But Bennett is all about defense first, and Jesperson - as with most any freshman - is an unknown in that regard.

What we need: For him to pack on a couple pounds, for one.  Let's start with hitting the shots he'll be brought in to hit, and see how it goes from there.  Like I said - he may sit the year, he's got to add some muscle in order to be ready for the ACC grind.

#5 - Assane Sene

What he brings: A ton of height and some quality shot-blocking chops.  There was hardly a facet of Sene's game that didn't improve last year, from his foul rate to his hands to his defensive positioning to his scoring touch.  Instead of being a presence on defense and a liability on offense, Sene can now keep defenses honest.  He's not the focus of the offense, but he no longer looks lost with the ball in his hands (or with it heading towards his hands.)  Sene will block shots, about one and a half a game, and somewhat neutralize opposing centers and slashing guards.  And he'll rebound without even having to think about it much, of course.

What we need: Such was the nature of Sene's metamorphosis last year that if he doesn't improve even a stitch on last season's numbers, I think we'd still take it.  Just keep shooting over .500 and blocking shots and be someone that defenses have to account for a couple times, and it'll bring a much-needed dimension to our game.  Some tremendously useful inside-out balance.  It may be that with Mike Scott's reappearance, Sene's impact will be the same but his numbers suffer a bit, and that's OK too.  I'll tell you what, though: give us exactly the same production as last year and I'll consider anything beyond that a pleasant bonus.

#12 - Joe Harris

What he brings: A hell of a lot more than we thought he did at this point last year.  Before the season, my take was, "just shoot good and everything else is gravy."  It turned out that Harris had a way-better-than-expected handle and a knack for finding the rim that you wouldn't have expected a skinnyish white freshman to have.  Oh, plus he can shoot.  He hit on 41.7% of three-bombs, which was the best mark for an ACC freshman since 1999-2000.

So now, he brings some expectations.  Harris was easily the top freshman of last year, and will be counted on to bring a high-level scoring punch to the court.  He was one of only five players to play all 31 games last year and he'll be in the starting lineup this year.

What we need: Other than Mike Scott, we basically are looking for Harris to become the team's top all-around player.  Harris can rebound and score from a lot of different places.  He'll be one of the most important players on the team, so no sophomore slumps, please.  Harris is the top returning scorer besides Scott, and he'll be looked at to improve upon those numbers and generally take a big step toward becoming one of this team's stars.

#13 - Sammy Zeglinski

What he brings: A ton of experience; it feels like Sammy Z. has been around forever.  Zeglinski will probably once again split the point guard minutes pretty evenly with Jontel Evans, and the two have been doing this for a while now so some consistency will be expected.  Sammy is a little bit limited in what he can do - for example, he can only hit three pointers at the very tail end of the shot clock from horrible places on the court.  (I'm exaggerating.  A little.  It's a little maddening that he can drop nothing but net and can't see it go in because he shot the ball in the process of falling behind the bench, and then goes 0 for the next 5.)

OK, he can be a little bit inconsistent there.  But actually, consistency is something he does reasonably well.  Even in three-point land.  By now, you know what you're going to get.  He's a veteran in running the offense, not especially athletic, but smart.  Decent defense, and a surprisingly good rebounder.  And he's cut down his turnover rate every year.

What we need: For there not to be a lot of difference between the offense as run by Sammy and the offense as run by Jontel.  That's a little more on Evans's shoulders, actually, but as I said, the minutes are split, so it's up to both.  They have to be excellent facilitators, and Zeglinski needs to keep on being a three-point threat and not go occasionally cold.  Other than that, I don't think we can ask much more; truth is, Sammy's evolved into a solid, steady veteran.

#22 - Malcolm Brogdon

What he brings: Tony Bennett's reports from practice have been glowing, and Tony's a low-key guy not given to hyperbole.  Brogdon sounds ready to step into the rotation right away, likely as a backup to Harris and/or KT Harrell, for starters.  I think we'll see a guy like Harris, with basketball savvy, scoring chops, maybe less of a sharpshooter and more of a handler.  Brogdon is being asked to develop his point-guard skills, and is said to be a solid defender as well.

What we need: If the starting lineup is as advertised, we probably don't "need" anything spectacular from Brogdon.  Just some bench scoring, maybe come in and abuse somebody else's second string.  That's for this year.  Not that anything we get is a bonus, but that nobody's asking him to be the star.  Yet.  I believe the thought within the program, though, is that Brogdon is being groomed to play that starring role in the future.  He's a versatile player, and with development could eventually be plugged in at the 1, 2, or 3.  For this year, expect a solid but modest contribution, with a couple of games thrown in here and there that'll make you go starry-eyed.  But as time passes, look for Brogdon to be a foundation player.


OK, that's the first half.  I cliffhangered you there, and you didn't even know it, because on Friday we pick this back up starting with my favorite player on this team.  Half the reason I'm all excited for this season is because I'm giggling like a schoolgirl over the prospect of unleashing a motivated Mike Scott on the ACC.  They're not gonna know what hit 'em.

I have one more thing before I go, which I stupidly forgot earlier.  If you're a UVA baseball fan you'll like this report on Danny Hultzen from the Arizona Fall League.  #2-pick Hultzen matched up against #1-pick Gerrit Cole in the Rising Stars Game and outpitched the shit out of him.  Good times.  Best line: "Hultzen is probably the fourth-best starter in the [Mariners] organization for 2012 after Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda and Jason Vargas."  That's the whole organization, not just the minors.  Good stuff.


Anonymous said...

Firstly, I just wanted to say I really love the site and check it pretty much every day. You are doing a fantastic job. Keep it up!

Secondly, I was wondering if you could help me with a question I have had for some time. Should I be cheering for other ACC schools to win when they are playing out of conference competition because it helps our strength of schedule and might get the league more bids, or should I cheer against them since if we end up with the same conference record as another team the tie-breaker is overall record? As much as I hate it, I feel like pulling for the other ACC squads is the logical way to go. Is that right?

Lastly, I was wondering if there was any way every week you could put up a list of games which involve all the teams on our basketball schedule. Like a 'Games of Interest' section. I try to keep track of them all since it influences our RPI so strongly, but sometimes it is difficult. Anyways, it might not be worth the effort, but it was just a thought.

Keep up the great work, and sorry for the long post.

Brendan said...

Hmmm. I could do something like that as a future post. Not sure exactly when but it is certainly a thought.

As for rooting for the other ACC schools, yes, always; if you're talking about ACC tournament seeding, overall record isn't the tiebreaker. It's head-to-head, and if they split, it's the record against the best teams in the conference. Other ACC teams winning boosts our RPI, although nobody's going to make you root for teams like VT or Duke if the thought makes you queasy.

Anonymous said...

To Anon above: You can get a lot of what you want on kenpom's team page for Virginia:

It doesn't show "result of last game" for each team on the schedule, but it does show all of their rankings on the same page, and color codes "good wins" and "bad losses", which will change as the teams' profiles change.

Anonymous said...

This is the year to make a push in basketball. While I'd never go tourny on bust on this team (still awfully young), the goal should be more than making the tourny (not saying they should go deep, but the goal should be to win a game or two in the tourny). With two low post threats, a defensive post player, athletic bigs, veteran points, shooters, about the only missing is dynamic wing play, but a slimmed down Harrell and Brogdon could help that. Should be a lot of inside/outside work with Johnson/Scott opening things up.

It's a balanced squad. It might not have the dominant players of some teams, but there is no reason that it can't live up to the pre-season attention. The depth should allow for increased defensive pressure, since he can roll guys in and out.

I'm torn as to whether or not Jesperson should be redshirted. On the one hand, he's the guy that looks like a red-shirt year could help the most. On the other hand, with Nolte/Anderson coming in, and a scoring point in Teven Jones, spacing out the wing players in each class makes more sense (2 in Harrell/Harris, 2 in Brogdon/Jesperson, 2 in Nolte/Anderson).

Should be a fun year.