Now having won three straight, the Virginia Cavaliers took care of business on the road against the Florida State Seminoles by a final score of 67-58. With the win, we’ve got five takeaways.
Virginia offense wins with shooting
Starting hot and staying hot, UVA’s three-point shooting carried the offense against the Seminoles with Armaan Franklin (4-7), Ben Vander Plas (3-6), Reece Beekman (2-3), Isaac McKneely (1-2), and Ryan Dunn (1-2) all hitting triples. BVP and Franklin in particular opened the game on fire with the Wahoos building a 24-11 lead after nearly eleven minutes of play.
Beekman, McKneely, and Dunn joined the party in the second half as Virginia was able to rely on hitting outside shots. Especially without Kadin Shedrick or Jayden Gardner on the floor much, the emphasis on shooting the ball paid off for Tony Bennett and company. The spacing offensively, especially in the triangle offense that the team has been employing more and more, is really valuable.
Obviously, an offense shooting 11-22 (50%) from three is evidence of a pretty good outing. But, for this squad, being able to spread the floor so dramatically and actually hit those shots that are created is absolutely critical.
UVA continues to play small ball with Ben Vander Plas
Speaking of, over the last couple games, Vander Plas has played absolutely phenomenally at the small ball five. His 15 points (6-11 from the floor, 3-6 from three), seven rebounds, and three assists in 34 minutes were evidence of a great performance in his second start for Virginia.
Perhaps more importantly, he was solid defensively with only two fouls as his technical soundness accounted for his admittedly lacking athleticism as a center in the Wahoo system. He’s still just 32.8% from deep on the season, but his 46.2% (6-13) success rate (even with a couple shots rolling out) in the two most recent games has been clutch and has seemingly altered the coaching staff’s opinion on him as he has dominated the front-court minutes of late.
BVP’s presence on the floor as a threatening shooter does dramatically alter how UVA plays offense. Particularly in the triangle offense, him being able to pop out to the top of the key and knock down a three adds valuable gravity and allows the Virginia guards to attack elsewhere with the opponent’s center stretched out to the perimeter.
Kadin Shedrick continues to lose out on minutes
Occurring alongside Vander Plas’ ascension has been Kadin Shedrick’s decline. His mere five minutes of action points to how he’s seemingly lost the coaching staff’s trust as he’s been plagued with inconsistency, defensive over-aggression, and a lack of offensive production. That’s a real shame for this team as its ceiling is probably highest with him playing well, especially defensively.
But his recent play has unfortunately deserved fewer minutes and, with Vander Plas playing like this one either end, fewer Shedrick minutes make sense. He’s made too many mistakes this season for a guy in his fourth year with the program. Hopefully he can find more consistency and get back into a groove before long. For now, though, he may be relegated to a lesser role unless matchups dictate otherwise.
Ryan Dunn impresses in extended minutes
In a similar vein, Ryan Dunn came up big against the Seminoles today with nine points (4-7 from the floor), four rebounds, and three blocks in 17 minutes while Jayden Gardner played 19 minutes and only scoredthree points. Dunn was really good at the four in this game and fit well alongside Vander Plas in the front-court. After the Wahoos went with a super small lineup against UNC with Armaan Franklin playing power forward, UVA used Dunn more in that role versus Florida State with a slightly bigger lineup and saw solid results.
Dunn’s presumed improvement over the season continues to be a meaningful test for determining how good Virginia can be come March. His triple off the dribble, tough bucket after getting his shot blocked twice and grabbing the offensive board each time, and a pair of big dunks were all positive signs that he can produce offensively, despite not doing much leading up to this point. Continuing to see more of that from him is critical.
Wahoos have a chance for a win streak
As UVA has won its last three games, the team has a real shot at going on a meaningful win streak through the end of January into February, even if the last few victories haven’t been incredibly satisfying. With a home game against Virginia Tech (who have lost their last five) on Wednesday, a road contest versus a solid but not overly impressive Wake Forest squad, another home outing versus a bad Boston College Eagles team, and then road games against Syracuse and Virginia Tech, there’s logic to predicting a potential eight game win streak before the ‘Hoos host NC State and Duke in mid-February.
Fortunately for Virginia, its ACC schedule is actually pretty weak the rest of the way with two games against an atrocious Louisville team, a pair against Boston College, and one against Notre Dame. Sure, Duke, Clemson, North Carolina, and NC State will all still get a shot at derailing another Bennett run at the ACC Regular Season title. But, despite its flaws, this team should probably be one off the betting favorites to be the one seed in Greensboro in March.