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Weekly Check-In: Virginia’s Offense Bounces Back

Virginia posted three 80-point games en route to its Charleston Classic victory. Has the Cavalier offense turned the corner?

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Without getting overly excited about Virginia’s dominance in the Charleston Classic, it was great to see the Cavalier offense round into form. Virginia averaged 84 points in Charleston and looked like it could score at will for most of the weekend. After the difficulty Virginia had putting the ball in the basket in its loss to George Washington, the smoothness of its offense was a sight for sore eyes.

The most heartening development was the contributions Virginia received from scorers not named Malcolm Brogdon or Anthony Gill. Junior guard London Perrantes had three double-digit games. Sophomore swingman Marial Shayok had a career-high 17 points against Long Beach State. And senior center Mike Tobey erupted for 14 points off the bench against George Mason. If this trio can provide a consistent scoring punch, Virginia will have a much better chance of meeting preseason expectations.

For the basketball nerd, it was also great fun to watch Virginia’s blocker-mover offense run so smoothly. Developed by Dick Bennett, the blocker-mover system dictates that three primary scorers (the "movers") should move throughout the half-court while reading and reacting to screens set by the other two offensive players (the "blockers"). The blocker-mover was ran like a dream in Charleston.

For me, there are two tendencies that crop up when the blocker-mover is being run correctly. The first usually comes early in the offensive set when a Virginia guard curls off a low-ball screen set by someone like Gill or Tobey. Throughout the weekend, we saw the guard catch the ball, penetrate into the lane, and then either shoot, kick out to another guard on the perimeter, or lay a pass down to a post player. Perrantes was particularly proficient here in Charleston. His play within the system led to a number of easy shots for him and his teammates.

The second tendency often shows up in concert with the first. An off-the-ball perimeter player, often Brogdon, will react to a high-post screen and head for the three-point line up near "the 45." The guard with the ball, usually Perrantes, will pass over top of the screen for an open three-point shot. Virginia ran this play a lot with Justin Anderson last season, and it was good to see it working again with Brogdon. It’s an effective and smooth play that you don’t see in a ton of other offenses.

A lot has been said already this season about how the freedom of movement changes will affect Virginia defensively. But perhaps fans and commentators like me have underestimated the positive effect they’ll have for Virginia on offense. The Hoos still play defense better than most teams even with the new rules. And if their offense can click better? They might be much more dangerous on that side of the ball than we've seen during Bennett's tenure.

Of course, it’s hard to get too excited about what went down in Charleston. Virginia didn’t face a top-140 KenPom or Sagarin opponent all weekend. But the way in which UVA dominated does give the impression that Tony Bennett’s squad has regained its momentum. Virginia will get one more tune-up tonight against Lehigh before getting into the meat of its non-conference schedule. We’ll know much more about this year’s team by this time next week.