There are just seven games remaining in the regular season (WHAT?). So we got to thinking...who is the MVP of the 2016-2017 Virginia Basketball season?
Brian Haluska (B3): If we're looking at the entire season, the MVP is London Perrantes. Without him, especially early on, the offense does not run, and the team gets manhandled in some of the early games they ended up winning. Having the "coach on the floor" with such a young team was key to escaping the out-of-conference slate unscathed.
Jay Pierce: Saying anyone other than London is overthinking it. He makes the biggest shots, is their most consistent scorer, and is the unquestioned vocal leader of the team. There is no other reasonable answer to this question. The evidence that some of his scoring slumps have coincided with the worst halves of the toughest games is no coincidence. Without LP, this team is a bubble squad, not one of the best teams in the country. The young guards are starting to show their potential, Wilkins' has been drastically improved in league play, and Hall has been an impact most-improved player for sure - but Perrantes is the most valuable player on the team.
B3: If you just start with the ACC games, though, then I would argue the MVP is Isiah Wilkins. The team has been able to handle Perrantes being on the bench with the emergence of Ty Jerome. Without Wilkins, our inside game is non-existent. Wilkins' ability to hit the mid-range jumper and play well around the rim has kept teams from keying on the jump shooters.
Paul Wiley: I'm not usually accused of "overthinking," but I'm going to say Devon. The defense works better with him on the floor than anyone else. He can cover anywhere from point guard to power forward and hardly bat an eye in switching. We had gotten used to the defensive stopper guy being an athletic big like Darion Atkins or Akil Mitchell, but Hall is stepping into the defensive void left by Malcolm Brogdon in the backcourt. Hall is also the most consistently aggressive presence on the offensive end. Shayok uses his driving skills to open up mid-range jumpers, but Devon is the best at actually getting to (and finishing at) the rim. The offense tends to sputter when Hall sits, because everyone else on the floor relies almost exclusively on jumpshots. Without Devon, blowouts would become close games and close games would become losses.
Jay Pierce: While Ty Jerome has hit some great shots and I'm exceptionally excited about his potential - he has not been all that solid in his league play. He's had GREAT moments, but also many shaky moments. Look no further than this week's Louisville game. This is all to say, while Wilkins has been immensely valuable to the front court - London's value to the backcourt isn't lessened to me because of the flashes brought by his predecessor.
As for Hall, I agree with all the positives he brings. It's been a leap in production we were all hoping for (since his commitment from Cape Henry, I'd say). I don't know how you could say he's been more valuable to the team than Perrantes, though. On either side of the ball, he contributes - but is he more important/valuable/more of a contributor than London? Niether via the eye-test for me, nor statistically.
Danny Neckel: If we are talking about the entire season, then the answer is London Perrantes. The senior captain leads the team in points and assists on the season while guiding the Hoos to an 18-5 record. However, his production has slipped once ACC play picked up, including only registering 4 points vs Villanova and 3 games with a negative assist to turnover ratio. Meanwhile, during ACC Devon Hall has stepped up his game to a MVP caliber level. The junior guard is averaging 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists per ACC game while shooting 48%. He leads the team in defensive rebounds while committing only 9 turnovers in 322 minutes. In ACC play Hall has had seven games with double-digit scoring and five or more rebounds or assists. Perrantes has only had three such games, Wilkins five.
Brian “Fearless Leader” Leung: I agree entirely with Wiley that Devon Hall should be UVA’s MVP so far. Pierce calls Perrantes the “unquestioned vocal leader of the team” and I just don’t see that at all. I think we all want him to be the vocal leader, but that’s not him, and it’s never been, so to the extent we’re looking at London as MVP because of his leadership skills, I don’t think that’s there. Hall may not be the vocal leader either — and I’m not entirely convinced this team has one — but he has a strong MVP argument by being extremely fluid on defense and passionate on offense. I’m not adding much to this conversation actually, other than that I agree with Wiley.
Caroline: Ok, to shift the discussion, who has been the most improved?
Paul Wiley: Most improved is definitely Salt. From a numbers perspective, he's already played in more games than he did all of last year; his offensive efficiency is more than 20% higher than 2016, with a field-goal percentage closer to 60 percent than 50; his turnover rate has dropped by a third; and—most importantly—his fouling is WAY down. Are there still times when he looks like Bambi-on-steroids-on-ice? Watch the Syracuse game and oh dear god yes. But he's only a sophomore. If Salt does the sophomore-to-junior jump that's been a staple of player development under Bennett (see: Anderson, J.; Brogdon, M.; Shayok, M.) he could be a real force next season. But he's already done more than enough to be my MIK: Most Improved Kiwi.
Ellis: I give the most improved to Ty Jerome. Yes, I'm aware he wasn't on the team last year, but his in-season improvement to me surpasses the year-over-year improvement of any returning players. As of three weeks ago Jerome was someone whose playing time we viewed as a necessary evil, a need to get him reps now so that he would be ready to run the show next year. Somehow we've gone from that to him calling for clearouts down two on the road to the #1 ranked team in the country and I have no idea what the hell happened. His defense is still suspect, but he's confident, he's shooting the ball well and generally he's making strong decisions, I was really wrong about him.
B3: Most of Ty Jerome's shortcomings will be aided by offseason physical development. He's struggled with physical defenders, and that limits what he can do a bit. Luckily Bennett can break the glass and use Darius Thompson in case of an emergency.
Brian “#Blessed #DreamJob” Leung: I agree with Ellis on Ty Jerome being the most improved on this team. I want to note that Ellis gave Jerome a D in his extremely flawed report card earlier this year. But to his credit, I think at the midpoint of the season, many of us looked at Jerome’s effectiveness and wondered, “Is this the right Ty Jerome? Was this guy a top-100 player?” He’s completely silenced his critics on that front, and is making a great play at NBA scouts in his freshman campaign. Yep, I said it.
Well, there you go. Do you agree? Disagree? Leave your opinions in the comments below!