The Virginia Cavaliers handled the Morgan State Bears 79-44 in their last non-conference game of the regular season. With the win the Wahoos advance to 10-2 on the season and we have five takeaways.
Virginia avoids a bad non-conference loss
There were ups and downs to UVA’s 2023 non-conference slate, but by beating the Bears the ‘Hoos have officially avoided any non-Quad 1 losses. That’s a success and, although Virginia’s pair of defeats came by 20 points or more, they have no true blemish on their record heading into ACC play and have a pair of Quad 1 wins in their victories over Texas A&M and Florida.
Unfortunately, the ACC has enough garbage teams that UVA theoretically could still pick up a bad loss, particularly in the Cavaliers’ next two games against Notre Dame and Louisville. But, altogether, the ‘Hoos achieved the non-con goal of picking up a few good wins and avoiding any bad losses.
Reece Beekman remains good at basketball
In case you were worried, I can confirm that Reece Beekman is still good at playing basketball. In 30 minutes, Beekman shot 8-12 from the floor scoring 17 points, dishing out seven assists, registering a pair of blocks and a steal, and only turning the ball over once.
Even against bad teams, it’s a relief that Virginia can rely on Beekman to produce at an All-ACC level game in and game out. Especially as a scorer — the area where he hasn’t always been strongest — Beekman is so consistent at finding different ways to put the ball in the bucket at all three levels. He’s probably been a takeaway of ours for most if not all of UVA’s games this season. But even that doesn’t feel excessive simply because of how good he’s been in his senior season.
UVA’s shooters get going again
Yes, it was against Morgan State (KenPom’s 348th best defense in college basketball). But the Wahoo shooters got back on track in this game. Isaac McKneely, Andrew Rohde, and Jake Groves combined to shoot 46.7% (7-15) from deep, shaking off the poor performances against Memphis and Northeastern.
Rohde especially was better as a creator, shooting 2-3 from two-point range and adding four assists to just one turnover. Again, the competition is the competition, but he got to the rim more in this game than he has in most games this season and that’s an encouraging sign heading into ACC play.
Virginia struggles to finish at the rim
This is probably a nit-pick following an eight day holiday break and in a game against. That said UVA’s 14-26 (53.8%) showing on layups against the Bears was a bit of a sign of the team’s bigs’ struggles to convert around the rim. Ryan Dunn shot 3-9 from the floor and Blake Buchanan went 0-3.
This isn’t worth panicking over and I debated even bringing it up in this story. I doubt Buchanan and Dunn will ever combine to shoot 25% in a game again. But it’s still something and a bit of a sign of how this roster is currently lacking a scoring presence on the inside and is very reliant on the guards to create.
After all, the offense is the 139th most efficient per KenPom. So there’s absolutely room for improvement in creating and converting opportunities for the bigs to finish in the paint especially because the offense has been over-reliant on midrange jumpers.
It’s time to string together ACC wins
Now that the non-conference schedule is behind them, the Cavaliers are set up with one of the easiest ACC schedules of the conference’s contenders this season. Virginia doesn’t play one of the other top-four teams in the conference until playing Clemson on February 5th and the team only plays the Tigers, Miami, Duke, and North Carolina once each.
Knowing UVA’s record of success and penchant for simply winning ACC games under Tony Bennett, the next month plus of basketball looks like a prime opportunity for the ‘Hoos to string together conference wins and set themselves up to win at least a share of yet another ACC regular season title.