Monday, November 10, 2014

2014 hoops preview: players, part 2

It's a bye week in football, so we get to talk basketball all week long.  Don't act like you're not excited.  I'll have a couple quick things on the FSU game at the end here.  Today we'll continue the series on each player.  Tomorrow, the OOC schedule, and on Wednesday or Thursday, another look back at the ACC itself.  Stuff gets real on Friday, but sadly that game isn't televised, so most of us will have to wait til Sunday to get our first look.

#11 - Evan Nolte - Jr. PF

Nolte's an interesting case.  It's very fair to say that other than the freshmen who we haven't seen at all, he has the least predictable role on the team, and even then, it's not like we don't know what Devon Hall or Jack Salt are here for.

I even hesitated as to whether to call him a power forward or a small forward, but based on his usage during the tourney last year, power forward it is.  Nolte basically spent most of the season living up to the preseason expectations of reduced usage and a hazy role; his minutes were cut down to less than half of what they'd been the year before.  Then the tourney rolled around and all of a sudden it was like he'd never left.  Clutch shots against Coastal, posterization of some Memphis dude, and major-league defensive responsibilities against MSU, in which he looked like he'd been doing this power forward thing all his life.

Did we see a true metamorphosis, or just a well-timed hot streak?  Hard to say.  Nolte is one of the classicest tweeners you'll ever see, and what still remains to be seen as he goes into the second half of his career is whether he's on the good or bad side of that description.  Both his defense and offense are part of that equation.  We know he can shoot from deep, and he'll probably never be a back-to-the-basket player, but he's also flashed an occasional midrange game that would come in awfully handy if he develops it.  And on defense, we know he's not all that quick, but if he can defend in the post a little, he can be one of those really frustrating floor stretchers on the other end.  What he can't do is get knocked around on defense and expect to float to the edges on offense.

We'll see if he's hit the weight room.  Against MSU he played harder than we've seen him play in two years, and the results were a really pleasant surprise.  I think the most likely outcome for Nolte is that it takes him all year to really be comfortable as a banger and as an elder statesman on the team, and that his senior year is when he really hits full bloom.  But Tony has a way of coaxing development out of his players, and you shouldn't be surprised to see that timeline accelerated.  Mark these words: if UVA has another really stratospheric season like last year, it'll be in no small part because Nolte became a whole new ballplayer.

#13 - Anthony Gill - Jr. PF

On a points-per-minute basis, Gill was the most efficient scorer on the team last year, and it's no wonder.  He turned out to be just as advertised from his redshirt season, and usually got to go up against second-stringers, which was never a fair matchup.  Better yet, you could see his defense improve as the season wore on, and his minutes saw a parallel uptick.

The obvious question here is how well he handles the near-certain move to the starting lineup.  He'll be asked to guard all those guys that Akil Mitchell guarded so well last year, and score on them too, in a way that wasn't asked of Mitchell as much.  He's not the athlete Mitchell was, but he's quite a bit stronger, and his defensive style will definitely reflect that.  

It's a really simple equation: all that stuff you did last year, do it against better players.  But Gill is entering his fourth season in a college program, and there's little doubt he can handle it.  He could see up to an extra eight minutes a game (though about five is more likely); we may not see a corresponding increase in all his numbers, but they'll still go up, and he should find himself in the conversation for some all-ACC recognition if all goes well.

#15 - Malcolm Brogdon - Jr. SG

Pacism is slowly evaporating from national analyses.  Maybe not so slowly now that Tony's choke-you-to-death style has proven capable of elite results.  Proof: Malcolm Brogdon is 22nd in ESPN's countdown of the top 100 players in the country.  "No weaknesses" is their blunt assessment.

So a lot is expected of him.  With Joe Harris gone, this is Uncle Malcolm's team.  Like Gill, he's entering his fourth year of college ball, and has developed into one of the physically strongest backcourt players in the league, maybe the strongest.  He'll be asked to score from everywhere, with the focus of the defense squarely upon him.  Considering that he made some cameo appearances in KenPom's top ten rating - as in, players in the whole country - there's every reason to expect him to become not just UVA's marquee player, but one of the ACC's as well.  He doesn't wear the right shade of blue, so his path to ACC POY is steeper than for certain others, but first team all-ACC is the expectation.

#21 - Isaiah Wilkins - Fr. PF

Wilkins has a unique challenge among freshmen, in that he has more established players in his way than the rest of them.  Some of them (Stith/Shayok) are in each others' way, others (Hall, Salt) have a defined position with only one other player (albeit a core rotation member) in front.  Wilkins is a power forward, which means that Gill, Atkins, and most likely Nolte are all squarely in front of him in the pecking order.

The good news for him: Jack Salt is a likely redshirt, and Tony's nine-man rotation tends to prefer four backcourt and five frontcourt guys.  Makes sense.  Last year's five-man frontcourt rotation saw three players (Mitchell, Gill, Tobey) get the lions' share of the minutes, and Nolte and Atkins pick up a few each.  Well, now there's 25 of Mitchell's minutes to figure out, and I think you can count on Wilkins getting a few of them.

Probably at first it'll be one of those mid-first-half deals where you toss a guy in where it's not really crunch time and you need to keep your starters fresh.  In his commitment profile I called him a Swiss Army knife of a player; he doesn't blow you away with shooting range or power and strength, but he's athletic, long-armed, and energetic, and should do a nice job on defense as long as he's got the system down enough to be out there.  There's a lot of veteran experience in front of him and he'd have to pull a shocker to start chipping into their playing time significantly this year, but I think there's a little bit of an Akil Mitchell to him, and we know how that turned out.

#32 - London Perrantes - So. PG

The surprise of the season last year, for sure.  It was almost immediately apparent, the effect Perrantes had on the offense when he took it over, and from the beginning it seemed like he belonged - largely because he acted like it.  He didn't even make a single two-point shot in any of the first eight games and he still was making the offense run smoother than it had in a long time.  And even when the offense changed after the Tennessee beatdown, it didn't faze Perrantes or his ability to make it go.

This is Brogdon's team, but with just the one year in the program, Perrantes is assuming a leadership role.  (Though, one does wonder what on earth he did to get suspended for the JMU game.  It's a little reminder that he's still not quite a finished product.)  That leadership should also translate into a little more assertiveness with the ball.  He's obviously a huge piece of the equation, but KenPom's algorithms credit him with the offensive impact of Taylor Barnette because he finishes so few possessions and shoots so little.  Partly that's good - it means limited turnovers - but Perrantes was a .437 three-point shooter last year and ought to fire away a bit more.

He'll also need to improve his game inside the arc; his two-point percentage was an utterly dismal .319 and he wasn't much better at the rim, going just .355.  I don't think he needs to take it to the rack more - the offense doesn't revolve around that - just better.  But the bottom line is, UVA has as veteran a point guard as you'll find in the league - and he's a sophomore.

#33 - Jack Salt - Fr. C

Salt is considered the most likely player to redshirt, which is no surprise at all; he's a center, bigs are always behind the curve as compared to guards, and his New Zealand upbringing means he's had only a smattering of experience against the kind of competition his peers have faced.

So the likely contribution is as a practice body - and an awfully helpful one, because if half the reports of his physicality are true, our bigs will find the games a lot easier than practice.  Reputation has it that Salt seems to think he's playing rugby out there.  I'm OK with giving him a year with the strength and conditioning guys, maybe learn a little bit about what he can get away with.  If by chance he does play this year, I still wouldn't expect much - heavy physicality isn't easily noticed on TV and not that useful in small doses.  But I'm looking forward to the day a couple years down the road when he and Jarred Reuter team up to bludgeon opponents into handing over any and all potential rebounds.


Guessing at the rotation is probably a stupid thing to do, because the season has a way of really messing up predictions like that, but let's do it anyway.  Minutes are in parentheses after the name.


PG - Perrantes (30)
SG - Brogdon (35)
SF - Anderson (25)
PF - Gill (25)
C - Tobey (20)


Hall (13)
Shayok (12)
Atkins (15)
Nolte (15)
Wilkins (5)

That leaves Stith and Salt to redshirt.  It also only adds up to 195 - spread the rest of the minutes around the back of the bench to account for blowouts and such.


Quick bullets on the FSU game:

-- Sending 260-pound Jack English out to play left tackle against Mario Edwards - it's amazing Greyson Lambert didn't get beaten into a fine powder.  Nothing against English - but he's like the 8th-string tackle if we had an ideal roster, a converted tight end, and all in all the unfortunate poster boy for Mike London's abject failure to build an offensive line.

-- I like the fact that there's a wildcat play for David Watford, and kinda want to smack people who think that because he did a lousy job of throwing the football last year, it means he should never get on the field again in any capacity.  I'm more than OK with finding a role for a guy who has probably earned it with attitude.  But do the coaches take into account important details like, I dunno, down and distance, time on the game clock, or any kind of situational detail at all, when they call a play?  Steve Fairchild has designed a good offense but I swear that if he played chess he would draw up these elaborate twenty-move gambits to capture the opposing bishops, and wouldn't save his king from check if the rules didn't require it.  When he plays golf he probably has really nice clubs and drives off the tee exclusively with a sand wedge.

-- All three of Greyson Lambert's touchdown throws were beautimous, but the second one - to Darius Jennings - was really incredible, NFL stuff.  FSU had them all covered well, except that the DB's backs were turned the whole time.  On the throw to Jennings, Lambert spun it off to Jennings's outside shoulder and put it where Jennings could just go down and get it, and the DB, even had he realized the ball was coming, would've had an impossible time trying to twist and break it up.  Levrone's catch was mostly just awesome work by Levrone; the Jennings one was all Lambert.

-- That said, I defended Lambert on the UNC screen pass interception, but I'm not gonna do it for his one pick this time.  The poster child for a throw that should never have been made.

Prediction review:

- No UVA running back tops 50 yards rushing.  Kevin Parks had 43, the most of any Hoo.  Easy prediction to make.

- Both Lambert and Johns toss an interception.  Johns didn't play, so I can't take credit for this one.

- Lambert has better stats across the board - yardage, completion percentage, yards per attempt.  But I sure can for this.

- Winston throws for over 300 yards.  Nope - Winston was limited to 261 yards and a pretty pedestrian (for him) 7.5 yards per throw.  He outplayed Lambert, but - not by much at all.

- Greene absolutely torches the Hoos, with double-digit receptions.  Greene literally had a career day, his 13 receptions being a career high, and that's saying something for the all-time receptions leader at FSU.

Pretty good day on the predictions here, going 3-for-5.  Stats for the season:

20-for-50 on specifics (40%)
6-3 straight up (W)
4-3-1 ATS (L - the Hoos covered when here I thought they'd get blown out.  Nice job taking advantage of turnovers, but otherwise nothing to speak of on offense.)


pezhoo said...

On Nolte, I listened to the Best Seat in the House feature with Kris Wright. They talked basketball for 50+ minutes. Kris (who knows a lot more about basketball than I do and I'm pretty sure attends practice from time to time) said Nolte has balanced out his body. Last year he filled out a lot in the torso but his legs weren't coming along as fast. And Kris felt that threw him off. Supposedly that is evened out this year. I sort of thought that last year, that both Nolte and Tobey were trying to get used to the extra muscle. Both of their percentages fell off. We will see. I'd love for Nolte to be an 8ppg guy.

Anonymous said...

Ruminating on a few things:

Basketball -

I'm going to be surprised if Stith isn't in the rotation. I've been wrong before, as I once thought that Akil should've been redshirted instead of James Johnson. Clearly, I was wrong there, and Johnson's been nothing of note at SDSU (boy those reports of him showing as well as Sullinger at prep camps amounted to zilch).

Thing is, this team sorely needs some outside shooting. Beyond Nolte, there's very little, on paper, to consistently stretch defenses out and open space, and we somewhat need that to be able to operate. We don't have the classic post-player to demand the ball, so we're counting on Perrantes/Brogdon/Hall to create through motion or pick and rolls, and thus, the need for someone to stretch defenses is greater. To be fair, perhaps Tobey does develop into the post-guy that can challenge defenses.

Beyond that, it's hard for any freshman to pick up this defense and excel in it, so I'm not sure how much value Shayok will have. If you think about it, at crunch time, it seems for more likely that Devon Hall could pick up key wing defense duties than either Shayok or Stith.

Dunno, could be wrong, but my hunch is that the rotation is something (assuming Perrantes/Brogdon/Anderson/Gill/Tobey starts) like Hall/Atkins as the primary options off the bench, with Stith/Nolte in situational roles and Wilkins as the 4th big, with Salt/Shayok redshirting.

On Nolte, he reminds me of Evan Smotrycz, a solid shooter who simply isn't strong enough to consistently play the post, and lacks the footspeed outside. Unfortunately, deficiencies will probably highlight him, moreso than what he can do. Barring a surprise, it's tough to imagine him becoming a starter in his final two years, and it wouldn't surprise me if someone like Wilkins passed him on the depth chart.

I'll do a quick separate post on football.

Anonymous said...

Football -

On the one hand, the fight this team showed, in some respects, was nice. Sure, the post-game reports focused on how many mistakes we made and how we can't beat a top team like that ... but we were supposed to be annihilated. Had we shown that type of approach/attitude in the previous games, we might be talking about a few more wins and potentially saving London's job (and since we didn't, I'm sort of grateful ... although at this juncture, I'd rather not get some fluky finish to the season that saves London's job with a bowl game ... rather lose and start over, which leads to ... )

That last game shouldn't be evidence of London doing good things with the team ... but evidence that he should be gone. First and foremost is the ridiculous OL situation. This recruiting class, barring a sleeper of an Albert level (or even less, like Butler/Barker), doesn't seem likely to provide immediate help, although Proctor fascinates.

Beyond that, though, is the clear fact that outside of the OL, there's enough talent on the team. Lambert has big time potential if you could just get away from the dumb mistakes he seems to make a few times a game. Sure, I thought guys like Keeon Johnson and Jamil Kamara would do more, but instead of viewing it as a problem for them, perhaps we should be viewing it as WR depth. Even Swanson looked decent as a receiving option. There's talent in the backfield, and the defense CLEARLY has next level talent littered on all three levels (I'm going to shocked if Henry Coley isn't at least a bench LB in the NFL for a few years, and Blanding/Harris look like potential NFL starters. Heck, McLeod made it as a NFL starter, and both those guys are FAR more talented. Harold/Dean look like possible early round picks for teams looking for pass-rushing).

The fact that he couldn't do more with the talent this year, even with the glaring OL issue and DL depth questions, is disappointing, and we should move on and give the next coach a good base to start with. For all the talk about London's recruiting prowess and how any change, last year or this year could hurt it, Groh banged out good classes as well (no denying that London is a much more affable guy at selling the program), and the most important thing to recruiting is ... WINNING. You make a change and a good coach gets a solid year with a good returning base and that could lead to a solid recruiting season.

Make the change Littlepage/Oliver.

Anonymous said...

The JMU game is not on TV, but it will be streamed by JMU on their MadiZONE video service. It is free to use and from comments I've seen it is said to be in HD with better production values than Cavaliers Live.

Anonymous said...

Been reading reports/opinions that Wilkins may be the redshirt option, as Salt can come in now and bang away 5 fouls each game and Wilkins has a bit more potential. It's an interesting thought - trying to save Wilkins 4 years. I'm not sure I buy it, but I hadn't really pondered Salt over Wilkins.

Sounds like only 1 redshirt. If that's the case, my guess is both Shayok and Stith play this year. Gonna suck to "waste" a year for someone, as there's little chance that the 11th man is going to get much, if any PT, but oh well if that's the case.