Thursday, March 19, 2015
game preview: Belmont
Date/Time: Friday, March 20; 3:10
Record against the Bruins: 1-0
Last meeting: UVA 94, Belmont 74; 12/28/99, Charlottesville
Last game: UNC 71, UVA 67 (3/13); Belmont 88, Murray St. 87 (3/7)
UVA: 58.2 (#349)
Belmont: 67.0 (#68)
UVA: 112.2 (#25)
Belmont: 107.9 (#63)
UVA: 85.5 (#1)
Belmont: 106.3 (#251)
UVA: .9580 (#4)
Belmont: .5407 (#146)
PG: London Perrantes (6.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 4.8 apg)
SG: Malcolm Brogdon (13.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.5 apg)
SF: Evan Nolte (3.2 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 0.6 apg)
PF: Darion Atkins (7.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 0.7 apg)
PF: Anthony Gill (11.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 0.8 apg)
PG: Reece Chamberlain (8.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 6.1 apg)
SG: Craig Bradshaw (18.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.2 apg)
SG: Taylor Barnette (10.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.3 apg)
PF: Amanze Egekeze (5.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 0.7 apg)
PF: Evan Bradds (14.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.3 apg)
Win or go home, you know the drill. You no doubt also know a bit of the (very recent) history here: that it was former Hoo Taylor Barnette hitting the game-winning shot for Belmont that punched their dance ticket. (This tourney is loaded with former Hoos. Will Regan is still suiting up for Buffalo and Paul Jesperson is in with Northern Iowa.)
Memories of last year's first-round game are still fresh; UVA found itself down by as many as nine to 16-seed Coastal Carolina. Belmont - a small school sitting in Vanderbilt's shadow in Nashville - is the kind of team that could make the Hoos nervous again ... but also the kind that could get completely rolled.
-- UVA on offense
Belmont's not the worst defensive team in the tournament - that honor belongs to Eastern Washington - but it's close. Their efficiency of 106.3 places them outside the top 250 in the country. Size has something to do with it, but the OVC isn't exactly loaded with seven-footers, either. Belmont was even crummy within their own conference.
Belmont let most opponents shoot over 50% from inside the arc, especially if that opponent had a functioning big man. UVA has three. This is where the Hoos will have just an incredible, unfair advantage. Belmont simply doesn't have big men. Tyler Hadden is 6'10", 240 and Mack Mercer is 6'9", 220, and both play about six minutes a game. Taking most of the big-man minutes are starters Amanze Egekeze and Evan Bradds; Bradds is 6'7", 205, and Egekeze is only an inch taller and ten pounds heavier.
Tobey, Gill, and Atkins are going to have a field day with this. Belmont has the choice of using players who are barely OVC-caliber, or using guys who are small enough to get posted up by Evan Nolte. The Hoos are going to want to feed the post all day long; if they find a hot hand, that guy might score 20. This is to say nothing of the rebounding advantage UVA will have.
It's not only the bigs; our old friend Barnette, more power to him, but he's going to have to guard one of Brogdon, Nolte, or Anderson, and there's a reason he couldn't get on the court much while competing with them for playing time. Not to single him out; it's more an illustration of the talent difference here.
Frankly, there's no reason UVA shouldn't be able to score a whole bunch. The patient approach they have is going to break down this defense. I'd expect a bunch of double-teams to make up for Belmont's lack of size, but with so many mismatches on the floor, it shouldn't matter.
-- UVA on defense
Here's what makes me nervous. The huge size advantage UVA has is nullified in a way. Belmont won't be able to drive much and they'll never be able to post up. They might find some clever passing angles for an open bucket or two, but mainly, they'll be forced to shoot a lot of threes. Which is exactly what they want to do.
That's how you beat the Hoos, of course. Belmont attempted more threes than all but four teams in the country, and the thing about shooting is, an open three is an open three regardless of talent level or conference or whatever. In other words, just because they're a 15 seed doesn't mean a 40% shooter is gonna be any worse against a 2 seed.
Craig Bradshaw leads the way, shooting 42%. Barnette, of course, has a very green light, and Nick Smith, despite playing only 15 minutes a game, has the third-most attempts on the team. But truthfully, just about anyone on the court is fair game to fire away. Mack Mercer, who barely plays anyway, is the only player to be really complacent about.
I think we'll see the post double employed very little - partly because the ball just won't be in the post much, but partly because it doesn't make sense to leave three-point shooters temporarily open so you can double a guy that Anthony Gill could eat for lunch anyway.
With a ton of shooters all bombing away, it's too much to think they'll all go cold all at once. Some of these are going to drop. You just figure that the defenders need to be able to close out; fortunately, with no real post threat, there isn't much need to collapse too far in the first place. Belmont is going to shoot like 20 threes regardless of what the defense does; if most of them are contested, UVA should be able to keep the Bruins at arms' length.
Belmont has half the traditional formula for a big upset. They shoot threes - lots of them, and well. So often, though, the scrappy underdog also has a legit big man who seems like he's everywhere. No doubt the Bruin bigs are going to scrap, but they're likely doomed to being dominated in all aspects of the game. I think Belmont keeps it closer than we'd like, shooting well enough to not let the game get out of hand. But they're not going to play enough defense, either.
Final score: UVA 79, Belmont 66