The No. 22 Virginia Cavaliers are in the midst of a seven-game winning streak, and have won 10 of the last 11 games. A big part of the Hoos’ late season resurgence has been third year transfer Tomas Woldetensae. The Italian sharp-shooter started off the season slowly, but went 31-of-73 (43%) over a nine-game span from January 26 to February 26 (Wake Forest to Virginia Tech).
In the last three games — at Virginia Tech, against Duke, and at Miami — Woldetensae has struggled a bit, going 1-for-10 beyond the arc.
Woldetensae’s ability to consistently hit shots has dramatically changed Virginia’s make up offensively, and not just because they found more points on the board (which is always good). As a legitimate scoring threat from the outside that could quickly drop 21 (Wake Forest) or 27 (Louisville) points on you, opponents were forced to pay more attention to Woldetensae. This spread out defenses, giving Kihei Clark more room to drive and a) take it to the rack or b) dish to an open player.
Additionally, this opened things up for the big men, allowing Mamadi Diakite more space to take his man one-on-one.
All good things!
Some of Woldetensae’s shooting struggles coming into the season stemmed from a wrist injury that he was still recovering from. He also had to adjust to a new program, a new defense, a new city, and a new school. Once he settled in, Virginia coaches and fans saw the player from Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa that shot 47% from three.
In Virginia’s last two games against Duke and Miami, Woldetensae finished with no points and shot 0-for-4 from three. Both the Blue Devils and the Hurricanes made it a point defensively to run Woldetensae off the three-point line, something that is evident in his low attempt number.
But could there be another factor?
Friend of the website Kyle Matous (CLAS 2007) responded to a query on the Cavs Corner podcast about Woldetensae’s shooting based on the hairstyle he sports. Woldetensae has gone between braids and no-braids this season, so Matous sat down to do the math. For each game, he checked a highlight to see which hairstyle was in play, then used KenPom to find his three-point stats for the game.
Here’s how it all breaks out:
Woldetensae 3-pt Shooting Breakdown
Woldetensae is shooting markedly better with the braids (40.8%) than not (25%), including his three biggest performances of the season. He’s played four more games (16-12) with the braids, but has had six 0-fer games without braids (compared to just two games without a single made three when his hair is braided).
Oddly enough, most of Woldetensae’s best performances — at Wake Forest, at Louisville, and at North Carolina — all occurred on the road.
Virginia closes out the regular season at home on Saturday as they welcome Louisville to Charlottesville for Senior Day. The Hoos will likely need another big performance out of Woldetensae to pick up the win, but what hair will he be sporting?
Tip-off is set for 4pm, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN.