clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

UVA basketball mailbag: Frontcourt combos, too much midrange, and Bond’s role

Answering questions from the fanbase largely about Virginia’s biggest issues and areas for improvement.

NCAA Basketball: Fort Myers Tip-Off Third Place West Virginia at Virginia Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Cavaliers men’s and women’s basketball teams each went 1-1 in their tournaments down in tropical (is Fort Myers tropical? Maybe not... regardless) locations, so it’s time for another UVA basketball mailbag! I surveyed UVA Twitter for questions, compiled them here, and did my best to answer ‘em.

Reece Beekman and Ryan Dunn are in a class of their own; Who is the third-best defender on the team?

This is a hard one to answer. To some degree it depends on what you mean by “third-best”. Third most impactful? Third most reliable? Third most gifted? There are probably different answers for each of those questions.

I think Blake Buchanan is probably the answer that will stand the test of time. If you could forget about actually rebounding the ball on defense, it’s Buchanan going away because of his rim protection presence — his 9.9% block rate is 38th in the country. Yeah he got schooled by Wisconsin and Steven Crowl. That was also his fifth college game against a bigger, more experienced player. So I’ll give him a pass there.

Dante Harris could be the next guy, but he’ll only be a plus defender against certain matchups. McKneely is solid but not spectacular on defense. So I’m sticking with Buchanan. I think he’ll be much better in March than November.

Which stat is more sustainable: Virginia’s free throw rate or Virginia’s opponent turnover rate?

Purely because of the presence of Dunn and Beekman I think Virginia’s opponent turnover rate (23.8%, 14th highest in the country) will stay in that same ballpark relative to the rest of the country assuming the rate drops with an increase in competition. That said, the 39.9% free throw rate (65th) isn’t so wildly high that it’ll come back down to earth, especially considering UVA has guys who can draw fouls. But I’ll stick with my gut and say opponent turnover rate because of the star defensive talent.

How amazing were the women on Saturday, taking the national champs to the wire for an entire 60 minutes?

They were awesome! I’ll defer to our women’s team beat writer Corbin’s five takeaways from that game for more extensive analysis. But from my perspective you can straight up see that this team is absurdly talented. Yada yada, LSU was without Angel Reese. That’s true. Yet the pieces on Coach Mox’s team are coming together so well now that all but Mir McLean are back from injury, and that’s so exciting to see.

Virginia’s lost its two games against top-25 competition so far this season. But they’re due for some big wins and an impressive ACC season.

Is Buchanan too small at the moment and needs another offseason to gain weight to become productive or does he just need to get used to the system and college game?

Both? Sorry for the cop out answer, but yes and yes! He’s a bit too skinny to be the guy down low against major conference competition, yet that’s reasonable for a true freshman out of Idaho. He also is having to adjust incredibly quickly and should become more accustomed to both what UVA’s scheme asks him to do and what opposing offenses force him to do with more time. Even down the line this season he’ll learn how to better use his quickness, footwork, and length to his advantage.

Can you see the lineup of Bond and Dunn at the front court that was used at the end of West Virginia being a lineup we can go to as competition escalates?

Shoutout my little sister Lily for feeding me a question she knew I’d enjoy answering.

Absolutely! I don’t remember if I tweeted it or wrote it on the site, but if defensive rebounding and size on the interior are going to be a problem (to some extent) no matter what, why not commit to it and at least use being smaller to your advantage?

I don’t think Bond and Dunn are going to start together as the lone frontcourt players. I do however think their combo up front allows for a lot of fun scheming on either end of the floor. With those two up front UVA could switch 1-5 on defense, spread and attack more on offense, and push in transition even more. They’re a fun foundation for a death lineup a la the Draymond Green-Kevin Durant combo that the Golden State Warriors used in their glory days (yes yes I am entirely seriously calling Bond Draymond and Dunn KD).

If you could edit one of our players (2k style) and turn a single attribute to 99, what would it be and who would it be for?

It’s really hard to not simply say three-point shooting for either Beekman or Dunn. Forget defensive rebounding, three-point shooting is this roster’s biggest issue. UVA is taking way, way too many midrange jumpers and Beekman and Dunn are a combined 23.5% from deep this season. Honestly to make him a more valuable player and to round out the roster a bit more, bumping Rohde up to 99 as an outside shooter could also be worth it; he’s 31.2% so far this season from deep.

I do think Beekman will rebound from starting the year 6-21 from three. I’ll push Dunn’s outside shot to 99. He’s a top-5 pick if I do that, but I think he’s gone to the draft anyway and being able to have him be a huge plus on either end of the floor would be a relief for a frontcourt that lacks two-way players. And the things UVA could do offensively by having a consistent elite shooting presence in the frontcourt would be incredible.

What stats are you watching as indicators of room for improvement by the Hoos? Everybody knows about boards. But FT%? LB’s minutes?

It’s far from sexy and not the easiest to track, but Virginia needs to take far, far fewer midrange shots to be a legitimately successful offense.

So far this season UVA’s midrange rate (midrange shots/total field goal attempts) of 36% is second highest in the country, per ShotQuality. And they’re 113th in midrange efficiency. No bueno. The Wahoos’ rim and three rate (shots taken from three or at the rim/field goal attempts) is 343th lowest. That is also no bueno.

Bad offense results in midrange jumpers. They’re the least desired shots because they’re the least efficient shots, and modern defenses are built to allow an offense to take them. Sure, certain players are going to have to take two-point jumpers to keep defenses honest (Beekman, sometimes McKneely), and some guys can hit them at a high enough clip to be worth taking (Bond).

Otherwise, for UVA’s offense (which is the team’s achilles heel right now) to be better there have to be more shots at the rim and more from deep. If their rim and three rate increases and midrange rate decreases, that will be a sign that this team is on the right track.

Is Minor’s challenge that he can’t play effectively in the Packline, or are there other things there that are keeping him off the court?

There are definitely other things keeping him off the court. He doesn’t do anything for the offense. Bennett’s offensive scheme and the way he and the staff understand an individual players’ value have changed, and Minor is the most prominent evidence of that. On offense he’s an iffy finisher around the basket and a screener and that’s just about it.

Then, yeah, he’s not an obvious plus defensively against legit competition. He’s way better defensively than Jake Groves. But Groves is shooting 44.4% from three this season. Minor doesn’t bring anything elite to the table on either end of the floor whereas every other UVA frontcourt player does at least in some siloed area of the game. That’s his biggest challenge.

What is it going to take to be able to play Bond at the 3 more?

Three things: Expanded jump shooting to behind the three-point line, a more reliable handle on the perimeter with defenders trying to get underneath him, or personnel-specific offensive scheming that allows the offense to take advantage of his offensive strengths without forcing him to be something he’s not.

For Bond to play at the 3 this season, that third factor is the most realistic way to get him on the floor. Virginia has relied on its inside triangle/three-man offense for stretches this season and has found success in doing so oftentimes because of how good of a scorer Bond is in the mid-post. If UVA wants to utilize his length as a 3 defensively, they can run that offensive scheme with him on the interior and negate any concerns about his outside shooting or ball handling.