Monday, November 11, 2013
game preview: VCU
Date/Time: Tuesday, November 12; 7:00
Record against the Rams: 10-1
Last meeting: UVA 86, VCU 70; 11/13/98, Richmond
Last game: UVA 61, JMU 41 (11/8); VCU 96, ISU 58 (11/8)
UVA: 63.1 (#340)
VCU: 68.7 (#81)
UVA: 107.6 (#53)
VCU: 112.1 (#16)
UVA: 89.7 (#4)
VCU: 93.2 (#17)
UVA: .8901 (#15)
VCU: .8923 (#13)
PG: Malcolm Brogdon (9.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.0 apg)
SG: Joe Harris (5.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.0 apg)
SF: Justin Anderson (5.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.0 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (7.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.0 apg)
PF: Anthony Gill (13.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 0.0 apg)
PG: Briante Weber (9.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 8.0 apg)
SG: Rob Brandenburg (12.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 4.0 apg)
SG: Treveon Graham (14.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.0 apg)
PF: Juvonte Reddic (13.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.0 apg)
PF: Terrance Shannon (14.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.0 apg)
It's probably a good thing this game is so early. UVA fans weary of the pitiful showings in Scott Stadium have something to distract them from football, and have headed indoors to sell out the JPJA. Probably with a small assist from VCU fans, but something about a top-25 matchup essentially for supremacy of the state has got UVA fans interested in basketball. If the season goes as everyone expects, both of these teams will be in the NCAAs without a great deal of worrying about bubbles and such, but that also means both teams are good enough that the winner will have a really nice shiny prize on their resume. Always good in the seeding discussions.
-- UVA on offense
All that running around VCU does requires a deep bench, and the Rams had 11 guys going 10 or more minutes in their season opener against Illinois State. Which they won, handily. Nobody played more than 25, which may have been a function of the blowout score as much as the VCU style. But they really do have no qualms about frequent substitution. One of the upshots of that: they won't be as bothered as a lot of teams if they get in foul trouble from the tighter emphasis on hand-checks.
Last year, in the tournament, Michigan showed the whole world how to beat the VCU press: get a good point guard and a big man who can run the floor. Elite players like Trey Burke don't come around too often, and try as I might I can't find one on our roster, but then, we don't need to crush the Rams into fine powder like Michigan did, either. And we do have floor-running bigs. Probably not quite on the level (or size) of Mitch McGary, but we can rotate them just about as quickly as VCU can.
The point guard is the question. Malcolm Brogdon's abilities against this kind of press are a mystery, and London Perrantes has one college game under his belt. Joe Harris is a good ballhandler but gives up quite a bit of quickness to VCU's guards. Justin Anderson's athleticism could come in handy; breaking the press is a team effort, after all. Not that he'd play the point in a halfcourt offense, but one does not get picky when press-breaking.
Once settled, UVA should have a size advantage. VCU does have forwards to match the size of ours, for the most part, but in the backcourt, there are plenty of smaller guards. Brogdon may well be able to post up on a defender, and Harris should have little trouble shooting over them. While VCU does have some bigger guards - primarily Treveon Graham and bench player Jordan Burgess - UVA will usually have larger guards in the game, and VCU will usually not. VCU's halfcourt game suffers from simplicity at times since they work so much on the press and depend on it for points. And of course, Tony often preaches that he lets his teams run when the time is right to run.... but he also has no aversion whatsoever to draining every drop from the shot clock to limit another team's frantic pace.
-- UVA on defense
The best way to break a press is not to let them press, right? Don't let them score and they can't press - that's the usual mantra. VCU will go right into the press from their halfcourt offense, so the actual key is defending and following it up with a good outlet pass.
VCU is tough to analyze on offense because they get so many easy points from their press. It causes everyone's numbers to look really shiny. Offensively, the best players are Treveon Graham and forward Juvonte Reddic. Graham is a biggish wing, and can score a lot of different ways; Reddic is a low-post threat that can match ours basket for basket. The Rams will probably miss Darius Theus at the point; Briante Weber is decent enough but more of a threat on defense (he averaged nearly three steals a game last year.)
If Graham and Rob Brandenburg get hot from three, it could be a long night; there's not much that's more demoralizing than giving up a three, turning the ball over, and giving up another one right away. Ouch. UVA will likely lose if this happens no matter how well they break the press because of VCU's pick-me-up pace.
However, let's not forget that in the halfcourt, it's VCU that has to find ways to contend with UVA's stifling defense. The more time we spend playing halfcourt ball, the better we're going to like it. VCU's 38-point win over Illinois State was impressive; VCU should be equally wary of UVA's 93.9% defensive rebound rate against JMU and the fact that the Dukes only shot six free throws.
This game is fairly easy to analyze. If UVA can take care of the press with reasonable consistency, they'll probably win. If not, they'll probably lose. The thing I don't know, and nor does anyone really, is whether yes or no. It's the early season and we're brimming with either bubbly optimism or laughable naivete, so let's go with yes.
Final score: UVA 65, VCU 59