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From the Rafters: Virginia Basketball get critical road victory

Virginia beat Cal Wednesday night to pick up their best win of the season

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at California Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

With a loss already on the record, and in search of a high profile win, the Hoos traveled west to take on Cal. The Golden Bears tout future pros in Ivan Rabb and Jabari Bird and over the last several years had been unbeatable at home, sporting a 27-game home winning streak. While the game was sloppy at times, the Cavaliers found a way to win upping their record to 10-1. Here’s a look at the Good, the Bad, and What to Watch for...From the Rafters.

The Good

  1. Guy emerging - For almost two years now, the excitement surrounding Kyle Guy has been building. And with good reason. The first five-star recruit and McDonalds All-American since Sylven Landesberg, the anticipation was justified in the Mr. Basketball in the state of Indiana who has a reputation as an elite scorer. Now, 11 games in his first year, Guy has done nothing to disappoint. On the year Guy is averaging 9.4 ppg, including 20 against Grambling State, and is shooting a torrid 60% from three point land, but it was his 17-point outburst against the stiffer competition that was Cal that really stands out. According to Ken Pomeroy, he has the highest Offensive Rating for anyone with 20% usage. However, among the top 100 in that statistic, only ten have a usage lower than his 20.4. However, look for that to change as the 29 minutes he logged Wednesday night were by far the most he’s had this season (only London Perrantes and Devon Hall had more). He’s a potent scorer and one we only hope is getting better as the season rolls along.
  2. Perrantes goes “home” - In what has become a very cool tradition for Tony Bennett’s Hoos, the coach tries to schedule a game within hours of his seniors’ home town. This week it was Perrantes turn, and while Los Angeles and the Bay Area aren't exactly neighbors (when asked, Bennett said he had tried to schedule with UCLA or USC, but it didn’t work out), it was a chance for more friends and family to see him play than can in ACC games. In fact, his high school’s basketball team made the seven hour trek by bus to see the first ever D-1 player to come out of the Crespi Carmelite program under coach Russell White. From the jump, Perrantes was on fire scoring the team’s first nine points in just over five minutes. He would cool off a little ending up with 14 points and three assists. Coupled with the team’s win, it was a successful homecoming, but what stood out was how comfortable he looked dominating the game early on. While that could have been some of the desire to show off, it’s encouraging to know it’s there and it will definitely be needed more often than not later on this season.
  3. The non-conference resume - With the non-conference season in the rear-view mirror (though Virginia still has a game at Villanova in January), we can begin to take stock of where the Hoos fall in the national pecking order. Virginia stands at 10-1, 3rd in KenPom, 12th in the AP Poll, and 16th in RPI. Their only loss is to West Virginia, a team that sits one spot ahead of the Hoos at 11th in the AP poll. Compare that to last year when the Hoos dropped an early season game against George Washington and Virginia is well positioned as ACC play opens. We’ll be watching Ohio State closely, and the Cal win on the road should be a nice feather in the cap come Selection Sunday. With their non-conference resume and a strong ACC record, there should be no reason why Virginia can’t be amongst the top seeds (1-4) in March.

The Bad

  1. Who’s scoring down low - Last year, Malcolm Brogdon had a permanent spot headlining the “Good” section of From the Rafters. This year, the absence of front court scoring may very well be a fixture in the “Bad.” Jarred Reuter leads all front court players with 6.5 ppg. That is a far cry from the 13.8 Anthony Gill posted last year, and even the 7.3 from Mike Tobey in limited minutes. What's most distressing is the effect the lack of low post play has on the offense. Reuter has probably the best interior game, but it seems as if passes into the paint are disrupting the flow of the offense as opposed to being a part of it. Furthermore, players like Isaiah Wilkins and Mamadi Diakite are more comfortable taking a mid range jump shot as opposed to working to get a shot at the basket. The numbers bear it out too as 29.8% of UVA’s attempts are jump shots. Coupled with 38% of attempts at the rim, and Virginia takes 44% of their 2-point field goal attempts from outside the paint. It's amazing their offensive efficiency has been as good as it is given such low percentage shot selection. Hopefully Diakite continues to improve as he shows the highest ceiling, and perhaps Reuter improves at the defensive end and earns more minutes. But most of all, let’s hope Wilkins is just in a little funk. At times last year he showed he could bang with the best while adding the versatility of a mid-range game. Given the players Virginia has in the back court, the teams’ forwards aren’t going to be looked upon to carry the load. The biggest hope is they just don't become a liability.
  2. What’s up with Shayok - Early in the year Marial Shayok looked like a man possessed almost scoring at will whenever he touched the ball. We protested to see him get more minutes as he seemed to be that player waiting in the wings to be the next star. Through 11 games though, that hasn't happened. He’s averaging only 5.5 ppg over the last seven and has seen his minutes never surpass 19 over that span including a season low 13 against Cal. Perhaps it's a matter of being surpassed by the likes of Guy, but Shayok needs to be a factor going forward. He’s one of Virginia’s better players at creating his own shot and at least trying to get into the lane to score. While he’s not looking at a breakout many (including myself) thought was coming, better days ahead, and the Hoos will need him.

What to watch for

  1. Early ACC test - There’s no rest for the weary as Virginia opens ACC with a doozie when they face Louisville on the road this Wednesday. The Cardinals are coming off a win over rival Kentucky and like Virginia are looking to crack the top-10. The two teams are ranked 1-2 in defensive efficiency so expect a low scoring game. Virginia has had Louisville’s number since UL joined the ACC with UVA sporting a 3-1 record including a 63-47 demolition last year in the Yum! Center. The game will go along way in establishing an early season ACC pecking order and giving the winner momentum heading into ACC play.

The Hoos and Cardinals tip at 7:00 PM on Wednesday. That game will be aired on ESPN2. Then the Cavaliers return to JPJ for a 2 PM New Year’s Eve tilt with Florida State that can be seen on ESPNU. The Seminoles are 12-1 and looking to break through to the upper echelon of the ACC.

Stay tuned to Streaking the Lawn as we bring you all your coverage of the Cavaliers. And as always, Go Hoos!!!