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Three things to watch in UVA basketball’s rematch at Louisville

Previewing today’s action.

NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Riding a three game winning streak, the Virginia Cavaliers look to be trending in the right direction. The winning streak includes Virginia’s only road win of the season, a relatively easy win over Georgia Tech last weekend.

Prior to the winning streak, Virginia had looked bad. They lost three of four, including a road loss to Notre Dame where they looked as bad as they’ve looked in the Tony Bennett era. But even in that bad stretch, Virginia blew out a struggling Louisville team at home.

The Cardinals have lost 4 in a row and 7 of 8. The one win there was a road win over Miami, which really just shows you how mediocre the ACC is.

Game Time: Saturday, January 27, Noon Eastern
TV: The CW Network
Streaming: None

Here is our preview from the first matchup. Now let’s take a look at three things to watch in the rematch.

1) Three Point Shooting

This has been discussed here, in other places, and also on the podcast. For this Wahoo team, shooting threes isn’t just about knocking down shots. It’s about taking the shots, getting the looks, and forcing the defense to react to that.

In their last game, the OT win over NC State, Virginia’s offense was bad. The team shot 4-17 from downtown, and that’s not gonna get it done. Of those 17 attempts, 9 came from Isaac McKneely (2-9, not his best day). But that means the rest of the team was just 2-8. The 8 is more concerning than the 2. This may be why Taine Murray got some extra minutes. He’s willing to let it fly.

This may have been the biggest shot of the game. Casey Morsell reaches in to help on the Reece Beekman drive. When that happens, Taine moves away from the defender and finds his spot. Great read from both Murray and Reece. Taine may have earned himself some extra PT.

In the first matchup between these two teams, Virginia attempted 26 threes. Six players attempted a three, although some of that was garbage time. Louisville attempted 25 threes, but made just 6. The better shooting team very likely wins this game.

2) Jordan Minor

In that Louisville win, Minor subbed in for the first time with 2 minutes remaining. In this game, he’ll be taking the opening tip. That is how much this Virginia team has changed since that bad stretch.

Despite Virginia’s blowout win, Louisville shot 11-17 in the paint. That’s 65% and that’s bad for Virginia’s defense. There was just no size or defensive presence inside.

Look at the position Brandon Huntley-Hatfield has inside. This is the first possession of the game. Dunn is amazing as a shot blocker and help defender. He is giving up 30 pounds to the Louisville big man, and that’s not a matchup Virginia will win. Not gonna get position like that against Minor, and that allows Dunn to play on the perimeter in matchups better suited to his skillset.

Although Minor’s work on the glass has been outstanding, that isn’t his biggest addition to this team. His ability to score inside is something that has been sorely lacking for this team. Virginia isn’t a team that gets a lot of shots at the rim, and doesn’t shoot very well on those shots, Minor’s ability to score inside is huge. Over the past 5 games since Minor joined the rotation (beginning with the end of the first NC State game), Minor has taken almost all of his shots at the rim, and he’s shooting 65% on those shots.

3) Turnovers

In that first game, Virginia had just 3 turnovers. Louisville had only 8, which is well below the 13.5 per game that Virginia forces. It’s not really the turnover count, but the difference.

The biggest difference in that first matchup was that Virginia attempted 58 FGs and Louisville attempted 47. It’s hard to overcome that big a shot differential without getting to the FT line a lot. Virginia doesn’t foul much, so that’s not going to happen. Virginia had 9 offensive rebounds leading to 10 second chance points. Virginia also had those 8 forced turnovers, leading to 11 points of turnovers. Combine those two factors with Virginia knocking down more threes, and it’s not hard to see why this was a blowout.

The rematch game won’t be such a big blowout. Virginia probably won’t shoot 40% from three on the road and even for Virginia 3 turnovers is an aberration. But Tony Bennett has fared well at the KFC Yum! Center and this Louisville team is struggling.

Prediction: Wahoos 70, Cardinals 62