The Virginia Cavaliers matter-of-factly handled the North Carolina A&T Aggies on Tuesday night, winning 80-51 and never really being in danger of the game even being merely competitive. With UVA’s third win of the season, we’ve got five takeaways for the ‘Hoos moving forward.
Virginia starts four underclassmen for the first time in... a while
I’m not entirely sure that this isn’t the first time in Tony Bennett’s tenure that four underclassmen have started a game for UVA. In Isaac McKneely, Ryan Dunn, Andrew Rohde, and (notably) Blake Buchanan starting alongside Reece Beekman in this game, it happened for the first time in my memory.
Buchanan starting after his stellar outing against Florida is awesome to see. He deserved it, and getting him those early minutes will be valuable down the stretch. He committed two fouls in 15 minutes, but also added six points, three rebounds, two assists, a beautiful block, and a steal.
with lanes wide open pic.twitter.com/mY1MMEiiHL— Virginia Men's Basketball (@UVAMensHoops) November 15, 2023
This is probably going to be UVA’s best lineup this season, and these five are their five best players. Frankly, it’s just pretty fun to have so much youth and potential on the floor at the same time, and it’s cool that UVA has put together a roster which is built for both the present and the future.
Isaac McKneely leaves the game with a lower leg injury
Late in the first half Isaac McKneely suffered a lower leg injury after what looked like an awkward collision with an Aggie player. He picked himself up off the floor fairly quickly before limping into the tunnel and the locker room. After halftime, he came back out with a small boot on his left foot and some sort of brace or compression sock on the same calf.
The injury didn’t look too serious, and Tony Bennett said after the game that “we got x-rays and it wasn’t broken,” and that McKneely “fell on someone’s foot.”
It seems like McKneely won’t have an extended absence, and if he’s available next Monday for the Wisconsin game that’s all that really matters.
Leon Bond can take over a game against the right matchup
He might not be able to put out this type of production against serious competition quite yet. But you can see what makes Leon Bond such an enticing prospect on either end of the floor. With 16 points on a wildly impressive 8-10 shooting performance, Bond made the very most of his 19 minutes in the third game of the season.
He schooled the Aggies in the mid-post and as a midrange shooter while continuing to make plays on the offensive boards with two including another highlight put-back dunk.
Finding ways to get Bond on the floor against real competition will be the question mark. Could he work at the three in the triangle offense as a guy to attack “mismatches” against teams without size in the backcourt? Can he survive at the four against ACC frontcourts? Both are sort of unknowns right now, but it’s worth trying to keep him in the rotation because of the immediate impact he can have on the floor.
UVA heavily relies on its inside triangle offense
I don’t have the efficiency or volume stats right now. But anecdotally Virginia ran its inside triangle/three man for the majority of offensive possessions, primarily to generate mid-post touches for guys like Bond and Rohde and to create driving lanes for Reece Beekman. All things considered, they were pretty darn efficient and imposed their superior size on the Aggies well all night long.
How much this offense features outside of this game will be interesting. It made sense to run it heavily against the Aggies because of the size advantage and the guys that got extended playing time in this game.
But will it be a central part of the scheme like it was for stretches last season? It could allow for UVA to space the floor some on the wings while letting Beekman attack off the dribble, but that’s far from the only offense which lets them do that. If UVA wants Bond, Rohde, or Dunn to be a scorer from the mid-post, then this is the offense to generate those looks.
Ryan Dunn is a dominant athletic force
To make up for not giving him his own takeaway after his absurd defensive performance against Florida, Dunn gets one from this game. In just 21 minutes against the Aggies, Dunn scored 13 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, blocked three shots, nabbed a pair of steals, and shot 4-5 from the floor and 5-6 from the free throw line. After starting the season 4-8 from the line, that’s encouraging.
Defensively, Dunn is simply one of the best in the country. On ball, he’s a menace who simply doesn’t get beat. Off ball, his rotations have been incredibly clean, and he and Beekman are an incredible pair to have as weak-side defenders. It is not hyperbole to call him the best non-center defender in college basketball right now because of just how versatile of a defender he is.