Thursday, November 8, 2012

hoops preview, part 2

Part one, she is here.  With no further explanation needed, on with the show.

#12 - Joe Harris - Jr. SF

With the heart and soul of last year's team now playing for the Atlanta Hawks, here's the guy who needs to step up and help replace him.  By the sound of things - Harris has stepped up to take the freshmen under his wing - we should be fine.  The team belongs to Jontel Evans in the sense that Evans is the only senior who'll play (much), and he's the point guard, but he can't do it by himself.  As the primary scorer, part of that job falls to Joe Harris.

Harris is one of the few remaining pieces of Tony Bennett's vaunted initial six-man recruiting class, and very few would've pegged him as that class's star.  He was supposed to be an off-the-bench shooter; instead he's the best complete player on the team.  Harris will score in almost every way imaginable; he's got a surprisingly good handle for a 6'6" white guy, and can get to the rim, hit jumpers, finish off and-1s, and that handle plus his command of the offense makes it not inconceivable he could be called on to play some point-forward.  He's not very quick on defense - adequate, really - so he can't actually man the point and take over the full duties there, but he's versatile enough to play anything from 1 through 4 on offense.  (We're in trouble if we have to use him at the 4, and it makes him very obviously less effective, but it can be done.)

Last year his KenPom O-rating was an excellent 108.9, one of just three players on the team above 100, and he ended more possessions than anyone on the team except Mike Scott at 21%.  (Meaning, of the team's possessions while he was on the court, 21% of them went through him, to either shoot or turn it over.)  He'll be the go-to guy for the Hoos this year, and that's a good thing; the latter number will certainly go up, and we'll be in fantastic shape if his O-rating does too.

#13 - Anthony Gill - So. PF

If we have to lose a bunch of players to transfers, we might as well pick one up.  Gill is not eligible to play this year, as it's his enforced redshirt after transferring in from South Carolina.  He'll be great for our practice depth, though, and when he is allowed back on the court he'll be an extremely important piece.  Gill is a very well-rounded player who made his mark as a freshman, and can do all that a power forward is asked to do and chip in a little on three-pointers as well.

#22 - Malcolm Brogdon - So. SG

Because this is UVA basketball and we can't have nice things, the foot issue that sidelined Brogdon for the last four games of last season have carried over into this one, and Brogdon won't be available for the first part of this season.  It wouldn't surprise very much to see it linger into December.

It's not a stretch to call Brogdon the most important player on the team when he returns.  (If you want to make a case for Mike Tobey I won't argue.)  At times last season, Brogdon flashed the talent that made him UVA's most highly-coveted member of his recruiting class.  His tour de force was the Michigan game, where he scored 16 points and grabbed five boards.  But he also had that classic freshman inconsistency; he disappeared for stretches, and in fact had a rotten January, shooting 15-for-42 that month.

For UVA to achieve its potential, Brogdon's three needs to fall more than it did last season.  From the end of finals break in December to January 31, he was 6-for-28 on threes, which is 21%.  Outside of that he was 16-for-40, which is a much more exciting 40%, but his season average was a too-low .324.  Except for those times when he plays the point, Brogdon won't be asked to do much.  Defend his position and be a deadly secondary scoring option next to Joe Harris.  Oh, and handle the ball late in games, since he's a much better free-throw shooter than Jontel Evans.  But that's it; it's not much to ask, and hopefully the transition from freshman to sophomore year smooths out some of the bumps in his stat line.

#23 - Justin Anderson - Fr. SF

Commitment post

I don't think there's a player anyone's more excited to see than Justin Anderson.  Anderson is Tony's first bona fide five-star recruit (in fact, as far as I can tell he's UVA's first five-star recruit ever), stolen from Maryland when Gary Williams abruptly retired.  As is typical of fanbases stung by the loss of a star recruit, he was awesome til then, and overrated the second he chose Virginia.

Anderson has a talkative, ebullient personality, and his game and athleticism - which Dave Telep described as "hellacious" - are reflective of that.  His initial role will be as an off-the-bench spark plug, where he has potential to do just a ton of damage.  We'll probably see some high point totals early in the season, because when you're sending five-star athletic freaks against Morgan State's second-string, the results might not be fair.  The temptation will be high to demand his insertion into the starting lineup, but patience, young Jedi.  First we must see how he takes to the defensive scheme.  As the season wears on, we'll start to see the full picture, and probably some of the same inconsistencies that plagued Brogdon.  'S'ok.  The good moments will outweigh the bad, here.  Anderson could well work his way into the starting lineup; if he doesn't, it's either because he's not defending well enough or the guys ahead of him are playing really well.

#25 - Akil Mitchell - Jr. PF

Defender extraordinaire, and, the tales have it, one of the team's tiptop athletes.  In his freshman year, Mitchell was a defensive stopper only, and a good one.  Any scoring was an accident.  Last year, though, the shell started to come off.  Especially as January turned to February and February turned to March and Mitchell stayed healthy while the rest of the team turned up in a hospital ward.  Mitchell even produced a double-double in the ACC tournament loss to NC State, with 10 points and 12 boards.

With Mike Scott gone, UVA will look to Mitchell to unpeel that shell a little more.  His defense and experience will probably earn him a starting spot at first.  Of that starting five he's probably the last scoring option, but a scoring option nonetheless.  Last year he was largely a one-trick pony when it came to post moves, so if he's been able to diversify it can only help.

UVA will look to Mitchell to block mad shots; in that sense he's Assane Sene's replacement in the lineup, although shot-blocking is something Mitchell's always been able to do, having a big, long wing-span.  I wouldn't go so far as to say offensive production is a bonus; we'd like to see about six points a game here.  But even though his offense is improving, he's still a defender first.

#32 - Darion Atkins - So. PF

An interesting case.  Atkins spent the first part of last season suspended and then stayed in the doghouse for a short time after the suspension was lifted, making his debut six games in.  His minutes were basically fringe-rotation stuff until the depth started vanishing, at which point he started seeing his minutes increase.  Then he went all shot-blocky on fools.  He blocked multiple shots in six ACC games last year - including eight blocks in one five-game stretch - pretty damn good considering his minutes were still barely into double digits.  Atkins was eighth in total minutes played - a number which doesn't convey how far behind the leaders he was - and led the team in blocks anyways.

Here's the other weird thing: KenPom had his O-rating at a whopping 120.6, largely due to a .581 shooting percentage.  Small sample sizes and all, but man.  If his minutes and usage go up this season, that will go down, but the takeaway here is that Atkins is something of an enigma.  And that means we could be in for some surprises.

If Atkins proves a reliable presence, it'll do wonders for our interior depth.  Absolute wonders.  Without him, we're Tobey and Mitchell and a lot of small-ball lineups.  Like Mitchell, Atkins has an albatross's wingspan, and unlike Mitchell, always seems to be scowling on the court.  I figure the glowering is an asset for a shotblocker.  If he keeps bringing that eff-off-my-basket attitude to the court, his minutes could double and the shotblocking gives him a chance to be something of a cult hero.


The outlook for the season is interesting.  Being just on the wrong side of the bubble is kind of a fun place to be when you think about it.  I don't think anyone's going in with expectations too lofty.  But pull off a surprise or two early on, and things could be very different.  KenPom gives us a projected record of 16-12, 9-9 ACC, and that seems about right to me.  (And the GMU game is a projected loss, a great early chance to flip one part of the script.)  I don't think that would be good enough to get to the tournament, but you never know, and even then the NIT is not the worst fate in the world when you're mid-rebuild.

A nominal starting lineup should look like this:

PG - Jontel Evans
SG - Malcolm Brogdon
SF - Joe Harris
PF - Akil Mitchell
C - Mike Tobey

Off the bench, you have Justin Anderson, Darion Atkins, some combination of Evan Nolte and Paul Jesperson, and some combination of Teven Jones and Taylor Barnette.  Mix and match as appropriate.  For defensive purposes, Atkins and Mitchell can pair up in the frontcourt; for maximum scoring punch, try Nolte and Tobey and whoever has the hot hand between Brogdon and Anderson.  One of Jones or Barnette will back up Evans, and the other probably rides the bench.  Or, Brogdon takes the point if Bennett wants to go big everywhere; in that case, nobody less than 6'5" is on the court.

The ACC schedule doesn't have any long home or road stretches; never more than two of each at at time.  It finishes, as it should, with Maryland, at home this year.  There are no trips to Cameron; in fact, both NC State and Duke are one game only, and both at home.  And, at least as viewed from here in early November, no murderer's rows or any long easy stretches.  Most games likely to be brutal losses are followed by the BC's and VT's of the world.  As far as the ACC goes, it's a very balanced schedule for us, perhaps tilting slightly to the easier side.

And as examined last month, the OOC schedule offers a few chances to make a statement.  Wisconsin is a nasty draw in the ACC/B1G Challenge, but a visit from Tennessee offers a chance to beat a tourney-bound team within friendly confines.  Don't get too riled up if we end up in Hokieland when the bids are handed out, though; this is a building-block year for 2013-2014.


Anonymous said...

Justin Anderson is good, but let's not get hyperbolic. I am not sure there were ratings in 1979, but Ralph Sampson was a five star. Actually, like a 7 star. Jeff Lamp was also VERY highly regarded and stolen from Kentucky. I am not sure where Courtney or Corey Alexander rated, but 4 stars at least. What about Curtis Staples?

Brendan said...

That statement sort of relies on the fact that there was no such thing as recruiting stars before about 2000 or so - at least not widely disseminated - and any before that were in expensive magazines that were only bought by a tiny cadre of hardcore people.

Anonymous said...

Sylvan was a McDonald's American and was a top 25 recruit. Believe it or not, KT Harrell was #30 on rivals. Majestic Mapp was a top 10 recruit.
JA is ranked #35 on rivals

Brendan said...

But nobody ever gave five stars to either Sylven or Harrell. Or Mapp, for that matter. Since, once again, Mapp came before star ratings. Scout gave Justin Anderson five stars, which makes him the first UVA recruit ever to receive that honor. Period. If I'd meant that he was the best recruit ever then I would've said that instead.

Adam said...

I was at the Mason game on Friday, here are a few observations for anyone interested.

1- We still can't break the press, missing the PGs only made it worse. This is the only time I think Bennett's system gets in the way as guys hesitate to "aggressively" break the press because they look to break and immediately slow it down.
2- Jesperson looks like he'll be losing minutes to all of the first-years in short order. He is way too tentative with the ball in his hands. If his catch and shoot game doesn't improve poste haste I don't expect to be seing a whole lot of him.
3- Not having Bub exacerbated this, but we had very little success, or motivation to dribble drive. This hurt the offense big time.
4- Everyone will love J. Anderson, he's the first player we've had in a little while that can get the ball on the wing, with the shot clock going down, and actually get around a defender and get to the rim, draw a foul, etc.
5- Harris looks to be up to the challenge in taking the most shots this year. He won't be quite as reliable as Mike due to the position difference, but he can put up 15+ per game I think.
6- Again, not having a PG influences this, but I'm just a little worried about Bennett's offensive system. It was simple last year (throw it to Mike), but now when needing more points from multiple players, his system will really be tested.