Early disclaimer that these early season tournaments are typically pretty wonky when analyzed at the end of the year. So what is bad right now probably won’t be so bad come March, and what’s good right now probably won’t be so good then either.
To dive deeper into the last two games, we’re back with our typical stock up, stock neutral, stock down column.
A quick note: this is player dependent relative to expectations/how good each player is individually. Stock neutral from a good player is a good performance(s). Stock neutral for a bad player isn’t so good. Stock up for a great player is incredible, stock down for a bad player is really bad. You get it.
He was borderline invisible in his 13 minutes against Wisconsin, but he was far from the only one. So I’ll give Bond a pass there and highlight his eight point, seven rebound, two assist performance against West Virginia.
It’s looking more and more likely that Bond will have to play a big role on this team, so seeing him perform and survive against Power-6 competition for the first time is a big deal. He played a career high 21 minutes against the Mountaineers and continued to display his strengths on either end of the floor. Frankly, Bond is one of very few true two-way players on this team, and that’s going to get him on the floor for the Wahoos this season.
Bryce Walker and Tristan How
Getting ejected from a game as walk ons? A+, no notes. Doing your job. Somebody has to go on the court to defend your guys. Way to take one for the team boys.
I went back and forth here because we’ve come to expect these types of performances out of Reece. But at the same time I don’t want to take them for granted. So to reward him for living up to the hype and leading this team that needs him so desperately, Beekman gets to be in the stock up column this week.
He was by far Virginia’s best player in the Wisconsin loss, scoring 17 points on 6-12 shooting (2-3 from deep) along with seven assists and two steals. Beekman kept that game close early in the second half before Wisconsin’s lead ballooned out. He was well and truly UVA’s only offense that night.
On Wednesday, he got some more help, but still ran the show for the ‘Hoos and clutched up late with five points in the last three minutes to push the ‘Hoos ahead. No real criticisms. He probably could’ve been a bit more reserved late in the game, but that’ll happen when he’s being asked to push and push and push and be the only one initiating offense. So I don’t have a real issue with his six turnovers in the two games.
Dunn is such an insane player to evaluate because what he does well he is unquestionably elite at — like the best in college basketball. But where he’s not so good he’s really not very good.
He continues to be absurdly good as a playmaker defensively with six blocks and two steals in the two games. He is a next level talent on defense both athletically and instinctually. But we knew that.
What I loved about Dunn’s play in these two games, and against West Virginia specifically, is how he finished plays around the basket. He’s shooting 85% (17-20) at the rim this season including 8-10 in the two Fort Myers contests. Dunn is automatic when he gets a dump down pass. He makes plays and contorts his body in absurd ways to find a way to get the ball in the basket no matter if it’s through contact.
*another and Dunn moment for your feed* pic.twitter.com/ZPRbdvAzWZ— Virginia Men's Basketball (@UVAMensHoops) November 23, 2023
He also had a really nice dribble drive, spin move, and finish in the final minute against the Mountaineers to put UVA up three. That was a huge basket, and it was something that I was not expecting to see from him this early in the year.
wash— Virginia Men's Basketball (@UVAMensHoops) November 23, 2023
⚫ spin pic.twitter.com/bNABoRoEj7
The reason Dunn is in stock neutral despite his heroic plays and defensive dominance is because of the shooting. 0-5 from deep in two games brings him to 2-13 (15.4%) on the season. The expected year two improvement as a jump shooter simply hasn’t happened. That’s not a huge deal considering just how great he is at nearly everything else. But it does cap his ceiling for Virginia this season and means that at times he slips into the background at times on offense like he did against Wisconsin.
I didn’t love McKneely’s two games in Fort Myers, but I don’t directly fault him for the struggles he did have.
He averaged 8.5 points and shot 50% from three and 100% on four free throw attempts with a steal in each game. He also only attempted six total threes, and shot 2-10 from two-point range. Surprise surprise, teams are running him off the three-point line.
IMac is coming off the ankle injury he suffered versus NC A&T. That had to contribute to some of his issues hitting jumpers off movement and also with actually getting open to fire away from deep. At the same time you want to see him expand his game beyond the three-point shooting, something that is possible for a player of his talent. Bottom line, he needs more time to get comfortable in an expanded role, and Virginia needs to force feed him three-point shots literally as much as possible.
Not much to say. I’m surprised he’s still in the rotation against serious competition, but Murray doesn’t make mistakes and if the guys ahead of him aren’t making plays then he’s useful depth.
I love Blake Buchanan’s game and his long term potential. I’m probably one of the biggest Buchanan proponents out there. Yet this week was a stark reality check for the freshman center out of Idaho. In 33 total minutes he scored two points (both on free throws), totaled five rebounds, added an impressive four blocks, but also committed seven fouls, shot 0-4 from the field, and significantly struggled with limiting his opponents’ offensive rebounds.
Buchanan got an introduction into what it’s like not to be the strongest dude on the floor against Wisconsin, and Steven Crowl attacked that matchup all night long. Buchanan is still going to be really good for the ‘Hoos long term, and he should still be solid for them this season. But there’s still going to be a learning curve and moments where he simply doesn’t have the brute size or strength to match up against the best centers in the college game. That shouldn’t be a surprise, but this week did expose some of the flaws in his game.
This feels harsh, but the mere fact that he’s not really getting on the floor while UVA was getting abused in the paint speaks to how little the staff trusts him. He also played seven minutes and his only recorded stats were one transition layup and three fouls.
I think Minor will be more playable down the line this season. But he’s not at all the high floor defensive center who can stop the bleeding for the ‘Hoos in the paint (right now). And not hitting that relatively low bar is a disappointment.
Harris played 26 minutes in Fort Myers and scored zero points on two shots. His only other registered stats included three defensive rebounds, two fouls (including a soft push off call which canceled out his one made basket), and a pair of turnovers.
I like that Harris can create his own shot off the bounce and I like that he can be an on ball pest who makes plays with his hands. More and more though he seems pigeon-holed into being Beekman’s backup and not more than that.
I’d be more than happy to be proven wrong. Harris can hit an open shot, and he can create open looks, they’re just not high percentage ones. He’s a good player for this team to have, and I think he’ll benefit from more time getting into the flow of the program and the system.
Guess we jinxed this one on Speaking the Lawn... specifically Pierce.
After starting the season 7-9 (77.8%) from three in his first three games, Jake Groves has shot 1-9 in the last three contests including 1-6 in the two games in Fort Myers. Woof. For a guy who can’t really hang defensively, if the shot isn’t falling then he’s really just filling space out there.
To some extent that works because he’s still stretching the defense some (for now). But the Oklahoma transfer is going to have to be more consistent shooting the ball as the season progresses.
It doesn’t feel great to have all the transfers and the one true freshmen in the stock down column. But I think that’s a sign that there is room for improvement and growth for this group of guys.
All Ro(h)des lead to Rome pic.twitter.com/VPiqBLZwpG— Virginia Men's Basketball (@UVAMensHoops) November 23, 2023
Rohde, alongside Buchanan, is the prime candidate to make tangible improvement in my eyes. It looks like he hasn’t adjusted to the higher level of college basketball yet. Like Murray, he doesn’t make mistakes. His 0.5 fouls committed per 40 minutes is 14th in the country, and he cleaned up the turnovers with zero in Florida this past week.
But in the Wisconsin loss and the WVU win, Rohde just didn’t do much despite playing the third most minutes on the team (29.5 minutes per game). He averaged 5.5 points, 2.0 assists, 1.5 rebounds, and shot 4-10 from the field, 1-4 from three, and 2-4 from the free throw line.
Rohde will be more impactful with more time. The fact that he doesn’t hurt the team is a good sign this early. The unknown is if he’ll be efficient enough (31.2% from three so far) as a floor spacer and/or initiator off the dribble to warrant the playing time he’s due this season. Whether either of those things happen will contribute to setting Virginia’s ceiling when February and March come around.