The Virginia Cavaliers men’s basketball team handled their business in the last game before exam break, beating the NC Central Eagles 77-47 and advancing to 8-1 on the season in the process. With the win, we have five takeaways for the ‘Hoos moving forward.
Virginia blows out bad teams
In UVA’s four buy games this season, the ‘Hoos have won by 30 points, 29 points, 29 points, and now 30 points. They also beat Syracuse by 22. It’s not necessarily something to write home about, but blowing out bad teams is the first prerequisite of being a really good basketball team.
This group avoids the threat of bad losses (the Fort Myers games don’t count, sorry I make the rules) by hitting open shots, being dominant athletically, and actually running in transition by creating easy offense with their defensive playmaking.
Against NC Central, UVA scored 15 points off turnovers and 22 fast break points. If you didn’t know, this program has had troubles with upsets over the years. Beating NC Central, Texas Southern, Tarleton State, and North Carolina A&T doesn’t mean that the ‘Hoos aren’t going to get upset in March this season. But how they’ve done it speaks to how this team could be built to avoid such results if the pieces come together.
Isaac McKneely is good at shooting basketballs
On his last 16 three-point shots, Isaac McKneely is shooting 75%. He’s 12-18 in the last two games, and he scored 14 points in the first 4:39 of this win. As would be expected when a guy scores 3.5 points per minute to start, the Poca Dot quieted down after that against NC Central. Yet him staying hot from the perimeter and, perhaps more importantly, remaining aggressive as a shooter is such a huge benefit for the Virginia offense.
With 22 points against the Eagles, McKneely has set and matched his career high in points in consecutive games. Put simply, that’s a fantastic development for Virginia heading into exam break.
UVA continues to hit a high volume of threes
The competition is worth considering for this game, but for the past three contests Virginia has attempted 22.3 threes per game and have hit at least nine, shooting 44.8% in the process. That comes after the Cavaliers went 27.1% on 16 per game in the previous three contests. Largely that’s a result of the shift in offensive scheming to Virginia’s triangle offense and Jake Groves being UVA’s go-to five.
Guess what? Shooting and making more three pointers is a good thing! #Analysis. Rolling with the scheme and the personnel that allows Virginia to take and make more triples is advantageous as long as they continue to shoot like this.
Jordan Minor still looks a step behind
I don’t mean to be too harsh, but the more he plays the more Jordan Minor looks like he can’t hang at this level of basketball. In 11 minutes vs NC Central, he totaled zero points, three rebounds, two assists, two turnovers, 0-4 shooting, and a -3 +/-.
Even going beyond the stats, Minor doesn’t look comfortable on the court on either end. Defensively his ball screen coverage looks like a guy who played zone for four years, which he did. It’s hard to fault him for that, but it’s the harsh reality. On offense, he’s not comfortable catching the ball and doing anything with it. I feel for him, and it’s pretty obvious that he’s in his head.
The good news is that, even if it’s in big wins, Minor is getting playing time and opportunities to adjust to Virginia’s scheme and level of competition. Against teams with a dominant interior presence, he could very well be a valuable piece to have down the line, so him potentially growing more comfortable is something worth watching as the season progresses.
Elijah Gertrude flashes on offense
In each of his three appearances, true freshman Gertrude keeps showing off different elements of his game. Against NC Central, he put up 13 points on 5-6 shooting from two-point range and 1-5 from three.
Even if he’s struggling as a spot-up shooter, he still hit his first career three and impressed as a shot creator off the bounce vs the Eagles. The way he can touch the paint and stop on a dime to elevate and hit a pull-up jumper is special, and he did that a number of times in this one.
Gertrude has room to improve and areas to smooth over. But he has elite traits for a young player that project him to be a valuable rotational change up pitch in the backcourt this season. Coming off a serious knee injury, it’s obvious that he’s actively getting his legs under him with each opportunity against live competition, and that’s awesome to see for a team that is going to benefit from what he can bring to the floor.