The Virginia Cavaliers men’s basketball team is on exam break, and now that yours truly has (almost) finished up his finals, we’re back to rolling out content about the ‘Hoos ahead of their return to action next Saturday. With UVA racking up a pair of big wins against Texas A&M and Syracuse and then following those up by appropriately steamrolling NC Central, it’s about time we analyzed how each player performed through this stretch of games.
Adding the typical disclaimer that by the nature of stock up/stock down/stock neutral column, this isn’t just a metric of if a player played well. Ryan Dunn and Reece Beekman are 2024 NBA draft picks. The two of them playing like that is awesome, but that doesn’t necessarily bump their stock up. It’s all about expectations.
Over this three game stretch McKneely is shooting 60.9% from three on 7.7 three point attempts per game. If you cut out the A&M game when he went 2-7, he’s gone 12-16 (75%) in the last two contests and set back to back career highs for points with 22 in each game.
Among players with at least 40 three-point attempts, his 58.1% is leading the country this season. For those with at least 30 attempts, he’s second. Even when dropping the minimum to 20 he’s still seventh.
I know we all saw that happen. I know we’ve already floated those numbers out there. BUT THIS IS NOT NORMAL. I don’t care about the sample size, regular really good shooters don’t do this type of stuff. McKneely is elite.
To some extent, UVA fans knew that. But we’d yet to really see him take over games as a shooter. Now we have, and the ceiling that this UVA offense has when he’s firing away has officially been revealed. What a major relief for an offense that needed a boost.
Well hey, who woulda thought Gertrude would be included in this column two weeks ago? Now that he’s almost 100% recovered from his ACL injury, Gertrude has burned his redshirt in Dante Harris’ absence and has already made an impact for the ‘Hoos. Each game he plays he flashes some different strength, and that’s really exciting to see out of such a raw talent.
Against A&M, his activity as a defender and the fact that Tony Bennett trusted him enough to put him on the floor for eight minutes against a top-15 team in his career debut spoke volumes.
Versus Syracuse, his raw athleticism and playmaking ability on defense flashed as he registered two steals and a block alongside six points.
Then, on Tuesday, his ability to score off the dribble and hit difficult pull-up jumpers was really impressive as Gertrude scored 13 points on 5-6 shooting from two-point range.
Of course the area for improvement for Gertrude will be as a spot-up outside shooter. He’s currently 1-7 outside the arc despite being 7-10 inside of it. But that will come with time. For now, he’s clearly going to be a part of this rotation and can effectively play a couple different roles in a Wahoo backcourt that’s going to use him.
After taking a little while to get adjusted to this level of college basketball, Rohde has come on strong. He started to produce as a scorer against Texas A&M (13 points) and Syracuse (10 points) as he’s appropriately honing his shot selection and making plays that the Virginia offense needs. And, just as importantly, he’s hitting from deep at a consistently respectable rate, shooting 40% over the last three games to bring up his season long average to 35.5%.
Rohde is arguably Virginia’s x-factor. He’s the team’s fourth best player after Beekman, Dunn, and McKneely, and how he performs on a game in, game out basis is a key factor in how the team performs. His role as the secondary creator and second highest volume shooter on offense is a critical one to ensure that teams can’t purely focus on stopping Beekman and McKneely. Recently, he’s filled his role well and is showing signs that he’ll continue to get better as the season progresses.
Groves is starting to look comfortable in the UVA defense (with the help of Ryan Dunn as an elite off-ball help defender) and it’s paying off for Virginia on the other end. Groves has fit tremendously in UVA’s middle triangle offense and is shooting a career high 42.3% from three in the process. He’s also a good passer for his size and rarely makes a bad decision.
Groves’ game-to-game stats are pretty dependent on whether or not he lights it up from deep. But the quality of Virginia’s wins indicate how he’s been a steadying force in the frontcourt.
Boy it feels criminal to not put Beekman and Dunn in the stock up. section They’re elite players playing to an elite level.
Dunn continues to be an absolute monster defensively, not only dominating his individual matchup, but also spearheading the team’s help defense. He is why Jake Groves can play such heavy minutes, and the problems he solves as a defender makes everyone’s lives so much easier. He also consistently makes plays as a defender, recording five blocks and three steals against A&M and then totaling three and three in the next two games combined.
Oh, and his 75.8% two-point shooting is casually 18th in the country and his turnover rate is 70th lowest. Dunn simply doesn’t make bad plays, only good or great ones. Enjoy it while you can, folks.
Again, please don’t gloss over the boring stock neutral section.
We are thrilled to work with @reece_beekman as a pillar of Rhoback U this season.— RHOBACK (@rhoback) December 8, 2023
As the reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year Reece has established himself as one of the best players in the nation. We can’t wait to introduce Reece to the Rhoback community ⚔️ #rhobacku pic.twitter.com/2XyvygMvfR
After turning the ball over nine times relative to 16 assists in the three games preceding this stretch, Beekman casually responded with 17 assists to merely one turnover in the last three games while not being at full strength due to a knee injury. He also scored 12 and 13 points against A&M and ‘Cuse while matter-of-factly locking down next level scorers Wade Taylor and Judah Mintz in consecutive games.
Beekman is playing at an All-American level so far this season, and despite his injury he’s been smoother on offense, perhaps as a result of his backcourt teammates taking some of the pressure off his shoulders by producing offense themselves.
Bond’s last three games have stuck with the pattern that’s emerged so far this season. He’s dominant as a scorer and rebounder against the lesser competition, but can’t quite replicate that success against high major teams with 3.2 PPG vs Power-6 schools relative to 12.5 against the rest of the field. That’s not meant as a knock on him; he’s only played nine college basketball games and is averaging 7.3 points per game.
The question for Bond this season will be whether or not his success as a playmaker in the mid-post and a versatile (but undersized) defender can translate to ACC competition. As he adds bulk later in his career and expands his game that should come more easily. But if (and potentially how) that happens will be something worth watching. Offensively, UVA’s usage of its inside triangle offense definitely suits him, and he’s taken advantage against the right opponents.
Murray remains a solid complementary player who, when thrust into games alongside the starters, doesn’t hurt the team and can hit the occasional shot and make the occasional play.
He’s a quality depth piece to have on the roster and provides stability above all else. The Kiwi was on the court for a couple of big runs in these last couple games, and he’ll be a useful minutes-eater for Virginia in the backcourt especially while Harris is out.
Not gonna go too long here. We’re seeing a little bit more of Buchanan being a freshman big in the UVA system, and that’s perfectly fine. Groves has been a huge plus offensively and Dunn makes up for issues defensively, so Buchanan hasn’t been as valuable or as necessary. But he’s still made plays on either end and shows the potential of the type of player he’s going to develop into in the future and maybe even this season if the pieces fall into place.
I hate to do this to him, but Jordan Minor has struggled even in the limited minutes he’s played recently. In garbage time against NCC Minor couldn’t deliver on the opportunities he got, shooting 0-4, turning the ball over twice, and committing two fouls in 11 minutes. He did grab three defensive rebounds and add two assists, though.
Overall it’s not that Minor’s skill-set hasn’t fit what Virginia needed or necessarily that he’s been out-played by the other guys in the UVA frontcourt (he has, but not simply because they’ve been so good). It’s that he hasn’t delivered on what he was supposed to be good at. Defensively he was supposed to be a body who could absorb contact inside and be mobile enough to contend with the UVA scheme on the perimeter. Offensively, he was supposed to live as a finisher around the basket off short rolls and drop off passes.
In reality, he hasn’t adjusted to playing aggressive man defense after four years of zone and, on offense, he hasn’t done what’s needed of him. He’s shooting 4-12 (33.3%) at the rim so far this season which is... not good. This isn’t to say he can’t turn it around or that this isn’t partially him being in his own head. But it’s how events have unfolded recently.
It’s such a shame that Harris is already dealing with an injury just six games into his Virginia career. Obviously he didn’t earn being in stock down, he’s here simply out of bad luck. Assuming he does return from the badly sprained ankle this season, he’ll be a valuable depth piece in the backcourt as we’ve already seen this season.
Gertrude may cut into his playing time a bit since their strengths overlap some. But Harris still provides value as a reliable primary ball handler who can spell Beekman the responsibility of initiating offense and always being the point of attack defender.