Tuesday, December 3, 2013
game preview: Wisconsin
Date/Time: Wednesday, December 4th; 7:00
Record against the Badgers: 2-1
Last meeting: UVA 60, UW 54; 11/28/12, Madison
Last game: UVA 83, Mizz St 63 (11/30); UW 70, WVU 63 (11/27)
UVA: 64.2 (#330)
UW: 65.7 (#293)
UVA: 110.2 (#58)
UW: 115.1 (#13)
UVA: 90.6 (#4)
UW: 95.7 (#37)
UVA: .9043 (#14)
UW: .8937 (#17)
PG: London Perrantes (2.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 3.5 apg)
SG: Malcolm Brogdon (10.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.9 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (12.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.1 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (6.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.8 apg)
C: Mike Tobey (8.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 0.3 apg)
PG: Traevon Jackson (11.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.6 apg)
SG: Ben Brust (11.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.1 apg)
SG: Josh Gasser (10.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.5 apg)
SF: Sam Dekker (14.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 0.9 apg)
C: Frank Kaminsky (15.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.0 apg)
A mildly annoying tendency of the ACC/B1G Challenge is to have us play the same opponent in spurts, like when we played Northwestern three out of four years. I don't think it's on purpose, just a factor of how the games are scheduled. But the upshot is, this year we have essentially the second half of a home-and-home, after winning last year in Madison. The Badgers lose a few key contributors but are again among the nation's top teams and a likely tourney entrant.
-- UVA on offense
Known as a top-notch defensive team as much as UVA is, Wisconsin is actually a little off of an elite pace this year. Teams are simply shooting better against them than in the past, and their defensive efficiency, though #37 in the country at the moment, is driven partly by the one thing they can't control: opponents' free-throw percentage. Additionally, they don't foul. They also don't get many steals or turnovers in general, something that often goes hand-in-hand with not fouling.
This was a bigger Wisconsin team last year. Departed are 6'10" Jared Berggren, lengthy defender Ryan Evans, and gingerbomb Mike Bruesewitz. Our group will look bigger by comparison, too, because of the additions of Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill. Wisconsin starts a three-guard lineup, and UVA will have size advantages against two of them.
Down low, Wisconsin, like UVA, circles four players in and out of the rotation, but tilts those minutes heavily toward Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky. It's because of the 6'11" Kaminsky I think Tobey gets the starting nod. Dekker is a possible target for abuse; despite being 6'7" he's more of a perimeter player than a true power forward. Not as much as Evan Nolte, who is basically a 6'8" Keith Friel, but Dekker's ability to handle the athleticism of an Akil Mitchell or an Anthony Gill could be called into serious question. Wisconsin may look to Kaminsky or a help guard to double if one of UVA's post men starts to go to work on Dekker.
Kaminsky is a problem. Not only is he a shot-blocker, to be expected at his size, but he's also got more steals on the team than anyone but point guard Traevon Jackson. I call tall three-point shooters mismatch forwards; Kaminsky is a mismatch center, and is sneaky quick.
It may be a positive that Wisconsin doesn't foul a lot, since we've had those issues at the stripe. Making the first shot is important, though; the Badgers hit the glass hard and everyone gets their hands on defensive rebounds, even the guards. If the Hoos can get the Badgers into foul trouble, though, well, Bo Ryan has stuck with an eight-man rotation all season, and ventures beyond that only when it's walk-on time. Being as they depend so heavily on the five starters, who get about three-quarters of the minutes, a possible tactic might be to pick one of them - Dekker, say - and attack ruthlessly to try and force foul trouble.
In general, teams have scored most of their points against Wisconsin from two; 63.8% of them, in fact, which is the third-highest percentage in the country. That bodes well for a team like UVA with so many weapons down low and a slasher like Justin Anderson to boot. The matchup should tilt slightly UVA's way here.
-- UVA on defense
Let's start with Frank Kaminsky. A 6'11" player with a three-point percentage of .480 doesn't come around often. Wisconsin's three-point shooting is inside out; Kaminsky and Sam Dekker are two of the top three on the team in terms of total attempts. Number one is Ben Brust, and he's deadly too. For this game, though, Brust will be guarded by someone four or five inches taller than he is. Wisconsin will make conscious efforts to get him open for threes, so Brogdon, or Harris, or Anderson, whoever has that assignment, will need to stick a little closer and not sag off as much as you'd expect from the pack-line. Do that successfully and you can eliminate Brust as a threat; he's not going to drive around you. Nice for us since that's what we worry about people doing to Brogdon.
Three-pointers are basically the #1 concern, actually. Of the eight players in Wisconsin's rotation, only one doesn't shoot them; that's freshman power forward Nigel Hayes, who comes off the bench. The other seven shoot .379 at a minimum (Dekker) and that's the only number under .400. Their forwards can score down low, too, but Brust and point guard Traevon Jackson are actually pretty lousy inside the arc. Just give them open looks from three, though, and you'll have trouble.
Fortunately, stifling the three is something UVA did well against this team last year, allowing 8-for-22 shooting. That's .364, which isn't bad but also is not the lights-out stuff they've managed so far this year. Wisconsin does a lot of things well - they take care of the ball and they're good free-throw shooters - but it's that three-ball that drives their OE from very good to great. That's their ace in the hole, and UVA will have to repeat last year's performance on defense or Wisconsin will take over the game. And right now, opposing teams are getting 37.7% of their points on threes, the 7th-highest number in the country. (That, however, is a function also of UVA being so stiflingly good against the two.) The challenge will be figuring out how to guard every inch of the three-point arc and still play the pack-line the way it's supposed to be played. Solve that and you solve Wisconsin.
Fortunately, Tony Bennett knows a thing or two about defense, and if you don't trust him by now to have an answer or two, you're not paying attention. This is an interesting matchup not for the usual slowpoke tempo deal but because UVA should have a decided frontcourt and overall size advantage and Wisconsin is so uniquely structured around the three. (And UVA has a defense designed to encourage that.) If Wisconsin's threes are falling there's no way in hell they lose. Fortunately, I think UVA has the ability to do just enough to limit that - use their hefty backcourt size advantage, for one. Keep Wisconsin mortal from beyond the arc and UVA should be able to win the game by winning the frontcourt matchups. It's early in the season, which equals optimistic homerism, so I think they will.
Final score: UVA 63, UW 58