Wednesday, November 27, 2013
game preview: SMU
Date/Time: Friday, November 29; 7:30
TV: CBS Sports Network
Record against the Mustangs: 0-0
Last meeting: N/A
Last game: UVA 69, HU 40; SMU 72, SHSU 53
UVA: 63.6 (#336)
SMU: 69.7 (#134)
UVA: 105.4 (#126)
SMU: 105.8 (#122)
UVA: 87.3 (#2)
SMU: 94.8 (#27)
UVA: .8973 (#11)
SMU: .7789 (#56)
PG: London Perrantes (2.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.2 apg)
SG: Malcolm Brogdon (11.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.2 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (11.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.0 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (7.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.0 apg)
PF: Mike Tobey (8.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 0.3 apg)
PG: Nic Moore (12.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 5.3 apg)
SG: Nick Russell (8.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.5 apg)
SG: Ryan Manuel (5.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.5 apg)
PF: Shawn Williams (6.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.2 apg)
C: Yanick Moreira (11.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 0.5 apg)
UVA heads to Texas to partake of the inaugural Corpus Christi Challenge. It's not really the most prominent tournament out there; in fact, UVA is certainly its most prestigious team. Technically those Liberty and Hampton games were part of that whole deal; that gets set up that way because the NCAA allows you to count the whole tournament as one game against your seasonal limit (otherwise they'd be much less popular) and this way UVA still gets to pull in two games' worth of home-game revenue. Which in turn is how a brand-new tournament can attract a Virginia to its ranks.
The bracket itself is only a four-teamer as far as we're concerned, with Texas A&M and Missouri State facing off on the other side of it. So the Hoos are pretty clearly the geographic outsider. Dallas is still a long way from Corpus Christi, though, so the game shouldn't be in front of too hostile a crowd. As for the opponent, they're a traditionally also-ran team once coached by UNC reject Matt Doherty - and yeah, he cratered this program too - and now seeing major revival potential under the flighty but famous Larry Brown. Brown is in his second year at SMU, which means they've probably got another year or two before he goes, but he remains the only coach to win both an NCAA and NBA title, and brings instant credibility.
-- UVA on offense
Because SMU starts 6'11" center Yanick Moreira, I expect Tony Bennett to counter with Mike Tobey. Tobey has started the last three games while Anthony Gill has come off the bench; I wouldn't consider the frontcourt rotation totally settled yet, though. I think Bennett is still playing the mad scientist just a bit with it. But Tobey and Akil Mitchell in the starting lineup has appeared to work pretty darn nicely.
UVA's offensive efficiency is a little bit pedestrian, but the walkons have been making frequent appearances, usually playing a few minutes against the opponent's starters, and that's been making the numbers suffer a bit. Turnovers and free throws are dragging the OE numbers down; the free throws are on the rotation members, but walkons can be expected to turn the ball over rather more regularly, and are responsible for about 10% of the team's TOs while playing about 5% of the minutes.
Actually, it's fairly remarkable the Hoos have as good an efficiency as they do; it's being pushed upwards by very good shooting from two (Gill is shooting 72.7%) and - quite surprisingly - offensive rebounding. Tobey is killing it on the offensive glass with a 21.1% OR rate, good for 7th in the country. This is a big reason why he takes a larger percentage of the team's shots than anyone else, by the way. Darion Atkins - also an offensive rebounding machine. If a few of the struggling Hoos start heating up from three, which Evan Nolte began to do against Liberty, and if more free throws start going down, you'll probably see a boost in efficiency.
Larry Brown usually has good defensive teams, and SMU is no different. All numbers mentioned anywhere in this preview, for both teams, need to come with a major quality-of-competition caveat, but SMU is fifth in the country in allowing just 37.8% shooting from two. Moreira is a very good shot-blocker, and the Mustangs bring power forward Markus Kennedy off the bench; he's got good size and bounce and active hands, too. SMU is able to go quite deep in the frontcourt and can match UVA's depth man for man.
SMU's one loss, to respectable but not powerful Arkansas, wasn't as close as it looked. Arkansas pulled away steadily and opened up a 24-point lead midway through the second half. They did this by loosening up the SMU defense with three-pointers. The hot hands for UVA right now are Joe Harris and Malcolm Brogdon; if they get hot early, the game will go a lot more smoothly; UVA can certainly win by pounding it inside, but SMU is a little better equipped to handle that approach, and the game will be more of a slog. One final potential mismatch: Bennett should work on having Malcolm Brogdon run the point when 5'9" guard Nic Moore is in the game, as the 6'5" Brogdon ought to have no trouble posting him up or shooting over him, as long as he doesn't let Moore's quickness get the better of him.
-- UVA on defense
Moore will be in the game quite a bit; not only is he SMU's starting point guard (and Larry Brown is notoriously difficult to play the point for, so when he finds one he likes, he rides that horse a long way) but he's also been SMU's only three-point threat so far. Moore is hitting at a .536 clip, and only two other Mustang players are likely to even try one. These are Nick Russell (4-for-16) and hyped freshman Keith Frazier (6-for-22.) With the pack-line geared toward letting struggling three-point shooters just chuck away, SMU will have a very hard time getting past UVA unless those two catch fire.
SMU's bigs have been having their way against the lousy competition, and most of them are pretty good free throw shooters, too. Yanick Moreira is .556 from the field and .741 from the stripe, and reserve center Cannen Cunningham is .778 and .909, respectively. Shawn Williams is shooting .621, and freshman beanpole Ben Moore (6'8", 185) .667. They're used to having their way down low, but I daresay they have not faced a front line as athletic as UVA's or a defense as frustrating to score on.
And UVA has put up some gaudy defensive numbers. SMU is fifth in the country at defending the two-pointer, but UVA is second. Something will have to give in this side of the matchup. Even better, UVA is doing it without fouling. No Hoo has more than 3.5 fouls per 40 minutes, and UVA's 18.9% free-throw-to-field-goal ratio is tops in the country. (In other words, teams have to attempt more than ten shots before they can get UVA to send them to the line on one of them. Roughly speaking.)
Where SMU has their weakness is in the turnover department. They're one of the absolute worst in the country at taking care of the ball, losing the ball to a steal on nearly 13% of their possessions. Top culprits are junior guard Ryan Manuel, freshman wing Sterling Brown, and freshman guard Keith Frazier; Nic Moore can also be a high-assist, high-turnover sort of PG. Manuel is close to having more turnovers than shot attempts. Exploiting this obviously means the potential for a transition bucket or two, but also means that UVA has a good chance of removing the ball from SMU's clutches before they can get it to their high-efficiency forwards.
This is something of a wild-card, though; the main thing for this side of the matchup is how SMU's frontcourt deals with a defense they're definitely not accustomed to, operated by much more talented players they're used to seeing so far. Hampton was surprisingly able to get the ball inside and in the hoop with some success, but UVA slammed the door on that fairly quickly. The fact that Hampton was able to do so makes you wonder if SMU can too, given that they're much more talented than the Pirates, but a similar adjustment by UVA will put an end to that and the Mustangs hopes as well.
There'll be a little feeling-out process at first here, and I would expect the early part of the game to progress fairly evenly. I'd be surprised if anyone is able to seize control from the tip. The smart money, though, would say that UVA should pull away. It'll take some effort, but they should. Don't be alarmed if that takes an entire half and the halftime score is close. Tony Bennett is going up against one of the coaching masters, after all. Larry Brown has made a career of making less talented teams surprisingly competitive, and he's one of the few coaches in the country whose defensive chops rival Tony's. In the end, though, I like UVA's superior offensive versatility to prevail.
Final score: UVA 68, SMU 61
Happy Thanksgiving, all. I'm out til Monday. I thought there might be a slight chance of squeezing in a preview of the second half of Corpus Christi, but that game is on Saturday, not too long after the Friday one, so, forget it. There just isn't time and I'm sure I'll be either fully engrossed in the train wreck taking place that afternoon, or consciously and purposely avoiding it, both of which require me to not be at this computer.