The long offseason is over. I am proud to say, welcome to basketball season Wahoo fans. For those who have stuck around through football season, you've earned it. From the Rafters is a continuation of our From the Upper Deck series where each week I will bring you three things I am watching for in the upcoming game(s), and then upon conclusion of said games will talk about how those things played out in the outcome. For those of you who are just joining us, full disclosure, I never played the game, never coached it, and was only so-so at NBA Jam, so my opinions are not those of an expert, rather just a guy from the rafters.
This week, Virginia kicks things off with a home game against the Morgan State Bears and then travels up Route 29 to take on the Colonials from The George Washington University. Without much to go on outside of the excitement that has been building since last March, here are the things I am most excited for going into this week's action
1) Nice to Meet you Darius Thompson - Earlier this week, my fellow STL writers and I did a roundtable each answering a couple questions coming into the season. One of those questions was "who do you think will be the most surprising player this year?" I was surprised that nobody said Darius Thompson, and if the question were "who are you most excited to see?" then Thompson would have definitely gotten my vote. By all reports, the transfer from Tennessee has incredible athleticism, is a superb on-ball defender, and is electric in the open court. I'm looking forward to seeing what he brings to the table and if he can come at least close to matching the excitement and electricity left void by the departure of Justin Anderson.
2) Who's the Fifth Starter? - This question has been asked all over the place in UVA circles, and Friday night, we will finally get some clarity. The consensus seems to be that the starters will consist of London Perrantes, Malcom Brogdon, Anthony Gill, Mike Tobey, and one of the following; Evan Nolte, Marial Shayok, Devon Hall, or Darius Thompson. Obviously we will find out come tip-off, but beyond who is in the starting lineup, I am interested in the rotations. Will Nolte start, but Shayok earn more minutes? Who comes in to spell Perrantes and handle the point guard duties in his absence? What does the front-line rotation look like with Isaiah Wilkins and Jack Salt coming off the bench? There are only 200 minutes to go around, so these first couple of games should be very interesting as to how Coach Bennett allocates them.
3) What effect do the rule changes have on the Hoos? - Much has been made about the NCAA's attempts to make the game more exciting, and the focal point of rule changes this year will be the shot clock being reduced from 35 to 30 seconds. I don't think I really need to watch the games this week to know this change will significantly help the Virginia defense. I mean, it's hard enough to get a good shot off against the pack-line in 35 seconds, I can't wait to see the number of shot clock violations with a 30 second clock. On the flip side though, I am interested to see how it will affect the Hoo's offense. Any real(istic) Virginia fan would agree that the Hoo's offensive pace can be slow at times, but we are also know that Virginia has the athletes to push the pace. I am excited to see if this rule change will get the Cavaliers moving just a bit more.
Virginia faces Morgan State at John Paul Jones Arena Friday, Nov 13th at 7 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN3. Monday, Nov 16th the Hoos travel to George Washington on for a 7:30 tip aired on ESPN2. Check back early next week to see some answers to the questions above.