The Virginia Cavaliers return to facing Power 5 competition in the Fort Myers Tip Off. Their opponent in the opening round is Wisconsin. The Hoos and Badgers faced off four times between 2012 and 2018, but have not played since. Virginia won three of those four, and are 4-2 all time against the Badgers.
This year’s Wisconsin team has already lost two games. At home to a very good Tennessee team and on the road to a solid Providence team. Neither game was particularly close. Not bad losses. But definitely not good either.
They didn’t look great on Friday against Robert Morris either. That game was tied in the second half and Wisconsin consistently gave up good looks.
A little bit of ball movement, and there’s a wide open shooter. No closeout either.
Game Time: Monday, November 20, 6:00PM Eastern
Streaming: Fox Sports
Three Players to Watch
This Wisconsin team is kind of the anti-Virginia in terms of returning from last season. While Virginia returned just one starter, Wisconsin returned all five. They returned over 86% of last year’s minutes. But is that a good thing? They didn’t have a good year. Under .500 in the Big Ten, and missed the NCAA tournament. They did make a run to the NIT final four.
A concern around the program was a lack of athleticism. They struggled to get looks in the paint and ended up shooting a lot of threes. And not particularly well. So they brought in Storr, a 6’7” wing with tons of athleticism. He was coming off a season at St John’s where he shot over 40% from downtown and made the Big East All-Freshman team.
Storr attacks the closeout and uses the screen to get an easy dunk.
Over the first three games of the season, Storr was dominating shots for this team. He had taken 40% of the team’s shots. But he wasn’t shooting the ball well, nor was he creating for others. He led the team with 17 points against Tennessee, but it took him 20 shots to do it and he had just 2 assists. That’s not actually good.
Robert Morris was his fewest FGA, points and usage rate of the season. That is probably a good thing long term for the Badgers.
If you watched the Florida game, you saw how badly Micah Handlogten abused Virginia on the glass. Crowl is a similar player, who may also give Virginia fits in the paint. Crowl is a bigger part of Wisconsin’s offense. He is a good passer, they will run things through him at times. He also has range and is a willing three point shooter. He’s only made 31% for his career, but he still takes one or two a game.
Blake Buchanan has shown a tremendous feel for defending in the pack line. His basketball IQ is very high, but he’s also got a high motor which is an awesome combination. I know you’ve seen this already, but check out the chase-down block.
He’ll have his hands full against Crowl.
Wisconsin had the 34th best recruiting class in the nation this year (Virginia was 20th). So far, the only real contributor has been Blackwell. He was the only Badger who showed up for the first half against Providence. He had 9 points out of the team’s 21. They were down 16 at half.
Blackwell went from 9 minutes and 0 points against Tennessee to 18 minutes and a team leading 18 points against Robert Morris. That is a one-week span. Blackwell can score, and this Wisconsin team needs that.
Blackwell starts this by getting his hand on the offensive rebound and tipping it to his guy. He then knocks down the open three. He was 2/3 from downtown in that game, the rest of the team was 1/10. He’s 4/7 (57%) for the season, the rest of the team is 16/62 (26%). Blackwell may find himself in the starting lineup before too long.
This isn’t news to any Virginia fans that rebounding is their weakness right now. The Florida game was only close because Florida had 21 offensive rebounds and 19 second chance points.
Like Virginia, Wisconsin doesn’t usually hit the offensive glass hard. They want to get back defensively. But they seem to be making a more concerted effort to hit the offensive glass. It’s early still, but Crowl and his frontcourt mate Tyler Wahl are both well above their career offensive rebounding rate.
It has to be a team effort for the Hoos on the defensive glass. It can’t just be Dunn and Buchanan. Offensive rebounds let Florida stay in a game the Hoos should’ve been dominating. Don’t let Wisconsin do the same thing.
Virginia Three Point Shooting vs Wisconsin Three Point Shooting
Wisconsin is one of the least three point happy teams in the nation. Last year, they shot a lot of threes, but not particularly well. This year, they’re shooting far less and shooting dreadfully.
A number of these guys have a history of being good shooters. Storr (40% last year, 24% this year), Chucky Hepburn (40%, 27%), Max Klesmit (38%, 30%). If any of those three guys get going, that could cause problems. Virginia’s three point defense has been outstanding, but all four opponents have missed some open looks.
For the second season in a row, Virginia opened the season on fire from outside. Jacob Groves was 7/9, that isn’t sustainable. We know McKneely can shoot, but he’s not going to shoot 57% for the season. Then again, Beekman and Dunn haven’t gotten going from outside. Those guys aren’t shooters, but should still be able to reach 30-35% and both are well under than right now.
Wisconsin is a good defensive team, but we saw above that good ball movement leads to open threes. Wisconsin’s three point defense hasn’t been good, and with Isaac McKneely likely to play, having him out there for those open threes might completely change the outlook for this game.
Wisconsin doesn’t look great this year. They still don’t have enough playmakers around and so far the defense hasn’t been particularly good either. The fear in this game is their size in the frontcourt. This may be the best frontcourt Virginia will see prior to ACC play. That is worrisome. It’s also good experience for Virginia’s young bigs, which they’ll need when they face ACC caliber frontcourts.
Prediction: Virginia 66, Wisconsin 61