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3 players, 2 matchups, and 1 prediction for UVA basketball vs Texas A&M

Previewing tonight’s contest against the #14 Aggies.

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

For the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge, the Virginia Cavaliers getsTexas A&M at JPJ. The Aggies are 5-1, with a loss to Florida Atlantic and wins over both Ohio State and Iowa State. All three of those teams are higher rated than the Wahoos, at least based on the analytics.

A&M coach Buzz Williams is no stranger to JPJ, having coached at Virginia Tech for five years prior to heading back to A&M, which is his alma mater. In those five seasons, Buzz was 3-7 against Virginia, with one win at JPJ.

These teams have faced off once, in 1962. A&M won 60-59.

Game Time: Wednesday, November 29, 7:15PM Eastern
TV: ESPN2
Streaming: WatchESPN

Three Players to Watch

Wade Taylor

A&M’s PG is one of the most ball dominant players in the nation. He’s 13th in usage rate and he’s taken more than a quarter of A&M’s shots and more than double anybody else. He is also averaging over 20 points per game.

Taylor is actually just a career 32% shooter from deep (26% this year). He’s a better shooter than that on rhythm jumpers like that, but he takes some bad shots. He had 35 points on 26 shots in the FAU loss, but had 14 points on 16 shots against Iowa State. They trailed by 21 in that game, and fought their way back.

He gets to the line, and makes his FTs. He was 22nd in the nation in FTA last year. He also made 35% of his threes last year.

This may be Beekman’s toughest test this season. Taylor is going to get some points. But making him work for those points, making him inefficient, is a road to winning this game.

Henry Coleman

Coming out of Richmond, Virginia recruited Coleman hard. So did Buzz Williams at Virginia Tech. Coleman started at Duke and when that didn’t pan out, he followed Buzz to College Station.

So far this year, he’s averaging 14 points and 8 rebounds per game. Both are big improvements over last year, though they haven’t gotten to SEC play yet. Those averages might drop. He’s been incredibly efficient, making over 70% of his FGs and 85% of his FTs. He is a career 57% shooter and 70% from the line. Again, those may drop as the season progresses. Or not.

Coleman is a beast inside. He’s a little undersized as a true five, and he doesn’t stretch the floor at all. But he is great on the glass and gets to the line.

(Note that Coleman did not play on Sunday after turning his ankle against FAU. His status for this game is unknown. Former Hokie Tyrese Radford also missed Sunday’s game and his status is also uncertain.)

Hayden Hefner

As a team, the Aggies are shooting just 28.8% from downtown this season. Last year, they were at 32.6%. Hefner is one guy who consistently knocks down shots. He’s over 40% this year, after shooting 35% last year.

This is a look we see from Virginia from time to time. The shooter cuts along the baseline, losing his man in traffic underneath the basket. Result is an open corner three. Hefner and Andrew Rohde are an interesting matchup.

Virginia really needs Rohde to generate more offense.

This is such a confident shot. This was early against Texas Southern, and they never went back to this, or anything like it really. Rohde also got to the line a ton last year, and has done none of that this year. Why is that?

Two Matchups

The Glass

If you are reading this, you know that the biggest weakness of this team is the defensive glass. Virginia ranks 327th in defensive rebounding rate. On the other side, Texas A&M are the #1 offensive rebounding team in the nation. They grab 46% of their own misses. That is a bad combination.

They are not a particularly big team. Wildens Leveque is a 6’11” 250 lb banger inside. He starts, but averages just 10 minutes per game. Their other bigs are all 6’7” or 6’8”.

They were better against West Virginia, giving up just 35% offensive rebounds. Four of 12 went to 6’11” Jesse Edwards. Those true bigs, the seven footers, have really given Virginia fits. That could be Leveque, especially if Coleman misses the game. Leveque, a transfer from UMass and South Carolina, played 22 minutes against ISU with Coleman out, and finished with 6 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks.

Texas A&M Perimeter Defense vs Virginia Three Point Shooting

On the season, the Hoos are shooting 36% from three. But over the past three games, it’s just 27%. Some of that is the injury suffered by McKneely. And some of it is unsustainable shooting by Jacob Groves and McKneely.

The bigger problem is Reece Beekman shooting 29% and Ryan Dunn shooting just 15%. These are the two leading scorers on the team, and they aren’t respected outside. That kills the spacing and makes it tougher to get open shots for the actual shooters.

If Virginia makes their threes, they are very hard to beat.

One Prediction

The Aggies are a very good team. In their loss, FAU shot lights out and Coleman was injured in the first half. Even so they grabbed 58% of their own misses. That game was 96-89, in just 67 possessions. And this highlights one of the weaknesses of this A&M team.

They aren’t a particularly good defensive team. Last year’s team was good at forcing turnovers, which buoyed an otherwise mediocre defense. This year, they aren’t forcing turnovers at all. They’re 312th in defensive turnover rate.

As you may know, Virginia is outstanding at forcing turnovers. And at not turning the ball over. If A&M are going to get a ton of offensive boards (and let’s face it, they are), then Virginia can generate steals to make up for those extra shots. Florida had 21 offensive boards, but Virginia had 15 steals.

And some of those steals end up in dunks. Those easy points can be the difference between a win and a loss.

Prediction: Virginia 63, A&M 60