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The Big Basketball Preview: Virginia vs. Austin Peay

NCAA Basketball: NC-Greensboro at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Cavaliers’ second game comes against the Austin Peay Governors, a team with unanimously low expectations, ranked 322nd in the preseason by Ken Pomeroy. The Governors are 0-1 on the season, having lost 73-54 to Vanderbilt as part of the NIT Tip-Off, similar to tonight’s game. The Hoos face Vandy on Thanksgiving Day. After that loss, Austin Peay moved up to 289 on Kenpom.

Last year, the Governors finished the season ranked 289th, but this team hasn’t always been so bad. They made the 2016 NCAA tournament, winning the Ohio Valley Conference tournament as the 8 seed. As recently as 2011, they won 20 games and were a top-150 team. The 289th ranked team from last year lost their top four leading scorers, two to graduation. The third, Josh Robsinson, entered his name into the NBA draft following an arrest for marijuana possession, but was not drafted. The last is Jared Savage, who transferred to Western Kentucky.

Robinson averaged over 20 points per game last year and also led the team in assists. He used over 27% of the team’s possessions, and was very efficient. He shot about 37% from 3, and over 80% from the line. His loss hurts.

That all leaves Chris Porter-Bunton as the leading returning scorer. He averaged a whopping 6 ppg last year in 22 minutes per game. From a team that averaged 78 points per game, they return just 11. And we’re concerned with where points are going to come from for the Hoos, who return 35 ppg from a team that averaged 66. Porter-Bunton can shoot it a little bit and he’s strong on the boards as well, even though he’s undersized for a 4.

They did bring in some talent in the offseason. That’s led by Grambling transfer Averyl Ugba. The 6’7” 225 pound is strong on the glass and in the paint. He averaged nearly a double-double last year. He actually faced the Hoos last year and put up two points and five rebounds in 25 minutes. Twelve Virginia players outscored Ugba in a 90-34 Virginia win. The other transfer is Ed Stephens, from South Carolina State. Stephens can shoot the rock (38% from 3 for his career), but that’s all he does. Stephens did not play in the opener.

With so much roster turnover, it is difficult to really know who the biggest contributors will be. After one game, it is clear that Ugba is going to be relied upon inside. He’s the only size they have, other than Canadian 7-footer Ivan Cucak, out of Hargrave Military Academy. Porter-Bunton also starts up front. He is decent on the boards, even though he’s undersized for a 4. He can also shoot it a little bit (38% last year).

The starting wings are probably going to be junior Zach Glotta and freshman Terry Taylor. Glotta is a shooter, who is 36% from 3 for his career. He does not do much else, although he did have 4 assists on Friday night. Taylor, a lefty, really impressed in the opener, scoring 15 points (27% of the team’s total) on 5/10 from the field. He was all-state in Kentucky (which is a big deal), but was not highly recruited.

The PG is likely senior Tre Ivory, a small PG who is pass-first and pass-second. He had 29 assists last season and just 30 field goal attempts, in about 10 minutes per game.

The bench is pretty much just Cucak along with junior Steve Harris and JUCO transfer Dayshawn Martin. Harris and Martin are athletic wings who excel in transition but can’t really shoot.

The Governors would like to get out and run. That is going to be difficult against a disciplined team like Virginia. They also would like to hit the boards hard with Ugba, but again that is going to be difficult against Isaiah Wilkins and Jack Salt. Although unless Cucak is in, there isn’t really a great matchup for Salt. Even Ugba, the best interior player on the team, is more of a perimeter offensive threat. His points inside come on the boards. I wonder if Tony will get Salt out of there early in favor of either Diakite or Hunter, who both have quickness advantages over Salt.

Look for Hall to guard Taylor, who seems to be the Governor’s best offensive threat. He’s also about the same size as Hall, so it’s a good matchup on both ends. Glotta will see Kyle Guy, but he may not be capable of staying with Guy on the other end. If Guy is lighting it up early like he did against UNC-G, then Austin Peay may switch Ivory onto him. Ivory is very quick and is a solid defender.

This game is a pretty good matchup for the Hoos. Unlike the opener, APU is not a veteran team, and they are going through a learning curve early this year. They also simply aren’t as talented as UNC-G. Pretty much everything APU wants to do is exactly what Virginia is very good at stopping. If APU is forced to settle for outside shots, they’re going to be in for a long night, because they don’t have the shooters.

The Hoos should open up a nice lead early on and coast home.