Well that was certainly disappointing. Perhaps we underestimated how well the Virginia Cavaliers’ youngsters would play on the road in an ACC game. To put it mildly, they struggled against a bad Notre Dame team.
The good news now is that they get to come home, where they’ve been far better this season. The bad news is that teams have the blueprint for beating this Virginia team. They haven’t yet shown an ability to adapt.
The Hoos face the Louisville Cardinals, another bad ACC team. The Cardinals are 5-7 and are coming off a 19 point loss to Kentucky. They’ve lost to DePaul and Arkansas State, and haven’t beaten anybody even remotely good. There is no excuse for Virginia to lose this game.
Louisville is playing without senior forward JJ Traynor, who is dealing with a shoulder injury.
Game Time: Monday, December 18, 7PM Eastern
Three Players to Watch
Clark played at Illinois last year, before stepping away from basketball midseason. He then transferred to Louisville, where he immediately stepped into the lead role. He’s averaging a team-high 15 points per game. He’s also shooting just 39% from the field, and 28% from three (on 5 attempts per game).
Yes, he’s down big. But those are still starters out there and that is a tremendous finish.
Often, when he drives, he’s not even intending to get the finish. He’s trying to get fouled. This entire team lives at the line. They get a full 25% of their scoring from the FT line. That’s just 15% for the Hoos. They get to the line, and they make their FTs. Virginia generally doesn’t foul much, but this could be a key factor in this game.
All you really need to know about him is that he’s 6’10” 240. That makes him a problem for Virginia. He averages 9 rebounds per game, and is really tough to cover in the paint.
Who in Virginia’s lineup has even a prayer of stopping this? Does Blake Buchanan get some extra run to try slowing down Louisville’s big man? Probably not. He was the second best player on the court in his second game and now he barely plays.
Teams with two bigs have really given Virginia problems. It seems like they can survive one big, but teams with good frontcourt depth give them real problems. Virginia just doesn’t have frontcourt depth.
The Irish had a lot of size, including three starters 6’7” or taller. This ended up being a bigger factor than was anticipated. Louisville doesn’t have that kind of size, which is why White is so important. With Traynor out, White is the second biggest guy in the rotation, and he has to play big. He’ll also be matched up with Ryan Dunn, who looked better offensively against Notre Dame.
This is defense into offense, which is something Virginia needs to do more of. Since they can’t score in the half court, those easy buckets are needed to prop up the offense.
Notre Dame rebounded 37% of their own misses. Jake Groves had 1 rebound in 19 minutes. Andrew Rohde had 2 in 30. Two of the five starters are just abysmal on the glass. That is a problem. Meanwhile, Leon Bond is second on the team in rebounds despite playing just 16 minutes per game.
Louisville are better on the glass than the Irish. And with Huntley-Hatfield, they have one of the best rebounders in the nation. This could get ugly.
Louisville plays with pace, they want to run and they want to get easy buckets. We saw against Memphis that pressure defense can disrupt this team’s offense and can lead to easy buckets the other way. Memphis had 27 points off turnovers in that game. Virginia had 8.
The Hoos may not see a full-court press defense in this game, but they will see token pressure and probably some half-court traps. Memphis definitely wants to speed up the game and get out in transition.
That’s Clark with the drive and Traynor with the dunk. Traynor is a big loss for the Cardinals.
Virginia needs to control the tempo. If Louisville runs a press, Virginia needs to get some easy buckets out of that. There’s enough athletes on this team that getting an occasional dunk against the press should be doable. Even against the low-major teams the Wahoos beat up, there were struggles against pressure defense.
This Louisville team isn’t good. Neither is Notre Dame, and we saw what that turned into. This is at home, where Virginia has been much better this year. That’s true of most teams, and especially young teams. We’ve gotten so used to Virginia playing well on the road under Tony Bennett. That isn’t the norm though.
If the struggles continue at home against mediocre competition, then it is certainly time to start panicking. But if they can take care of business at home, the goals for the season remain where they are. This team just needs time to grow. And freedom to grow.
Prediction: Hoos 61, Cardinals 49