After just two games in three weeks, the Virginia Cavaliers have a final tune-up before ACC play begins in earnest. The Wahoos face Morgan State at JPJ tonight t in their final OOC game.
These teams have faced off four times, and the closest game was a 19 point win for UVA in 2006. Morgan State rank 343rd on KenPom. This game should easily be greater than 19. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some things to watch as Virginia heads into conference play.
When: Wednesday, December 27th, 7PM Eastern
TV: ACC Network
Three Point Shooting
What we have learned about this team is that they simply can’t score consistently if the threes aren’t falling. Teams are running shooters of the three point line, and the shooters just aren’t capable of punishing the hard close-outs.
Against Memphis, Isaac McKneely was 0-5 from three, and he is just 2 for his last 11. Jake Groves, probably the second best shooter on the team, was 2-of-3 but did not score in the final 19:30 of the game, when Memphis ran away with it. When the ‘Hoos were struggling to score, Groves was absent. Really, everybody was absent for about a 10 minute segment of that game.
The turnover battle
Another big factor in that loss was the turnover battle. Memphis’ full court pressure caused a ton of problems for the ‘Hoos. The Tigers had 15 steals, playing Virginia’s game against them. Virginia has to win the turnover battle to beat good teams. In wins over Florida and Texas A&M, Virginia forced a lot of turnovers, giving extra possessions to help counteract a weakness on the glass and some offensive ineptitude at times.
Wisconsin and Memphis both have veteran players and that experience helped them avoid the turnovers and ball disruption which Virginia thrives on. Morgan State love to turn the ball over, ranking in the bottom quarter of teams in both turnovers and turnover rate. Don’t be surprised to see them run some full-court pressure, to see if they can disrupt the rhythm of the Wahoo offense. Any chance they have of pulling the upset will require them to win the turnover battle and to score easy buckets in transition.
The Wahoos have thrived this season on easy buckets due to runouts and live-ball turnovers. Those easy points are a huge boost to an offense that can struggle in the half-court when outside shots aren’t available (or aren’t dropping).
Memphis won the fast break points 27-8. That’s a problem on both ends. Virginia needs to be able to get those easy buckets while also avoiding giving up easy buckets the other way.
The Virginia defense is good enough to win games, if the offense is acceptable. They are never going to win with a 25% turnover rate.
The wing rotation
Andrew Rohde has scored 0 points in 53 minutes over the past two games. Leon Bond has scored 12 points in 36 minutes. Rohde brings playmaking that Bond does not, but Bond is better on the glass and as an on-ball defender. We know that Tony Bennett values players who play well within the defensive system, and Rohde seems to fit the bill there. But Bond’s athleticism and mid-range shooting are things this teams needs. It seems like Bond may continue to gain playing time, especially against more athletic lineups.
I am going to this game with family and friends and I am very excited. Wahoowa.