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The Big Preview: No. 4 Virginia Cavaliers host Coppin State Eagles

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Ty Jerome looks to keep raining threes in Game Three.

NCAA Basketball: Towson at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

As mentioned last week’s preview, when the Virginia Cavaliers scheduled George Washington it looked like a decent early season test. That didn’t work out, as GW lost half their team from 2017-18 and has fallen off. This week’s game, against the Coppin State Eagles, is not the same story.

Coppin State is bad, has been bad for a while and doesn’t look like it’s getting better any time soon. The last time Coppin State was over .500 was 2011, one of only three times in the past 20 years. In 2008, though, they won the MEAC tournament (as a 7 seed) and lost to Mount St Mary’s in the NCAA Tournament play-in game (back then, there was no “First Four,” just a single play-in game).

Last year, the Eagles were one of the worst teams in college basketball, finishing 5-27. They finished dead last nationally in adjusted offense, and 284th in adjusted defense. The only interesting thing about this team is that they are coached by former Maryland standout Juan Dixon. And that’s not actually all that interesting.

This year, they have improved all the way to next-to-last in offensive efficiency, but have fallen off to 334th in defensive efficiency (admittedly, it’s very early). They are 0-3 and have been blown out in all three games. They played Navy on Wednesday and trailed by just two at halftime before losing by 19. Navy, in case you were wondering, is ranked 277th by KenPom.

Because of all the blowouts, it’s tough to determine their rotation. Ten players average over 10 minutes per game. It isn’t just the blowouts, though. Eight different players have started a game. Two guys have started all three games, senior Lamar Morgan and sophomore Dejuan Clayton. Clayton leads the team with 11 points per game. He’s tied with fellow sophomore Taqwain Drummond, who started the opener and hasn’t played since. I haven’t been able to determine why.

Drummond and Morgan lead the team in FGA by a wide margin. Drummond is shooting 37.5% from the field and Morgan is shooting 29% from the field. Morgan has taken 26 out of his 31 attempts from 3-point land, and he’s made six. That’s, um, not good.

Dixon has a handful of interesting freshmen. One is 7’0” 235 lb Brendan Medley-Bacon. He actually started against Dayton, but had his best game against Navy when he had 4 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks in 19 minutes. Two wings, 6’5” 210 Nigel Marshall and 6’6” 195 Justin Steers both look to have some potential. They’re averaging 17 and 14 minutes, respectively, but have maybe been the team’s most effective players (aside from Drummond).

There is only one true senior on the team, the others are JUCO guys. Lucian Browlee has averaged about 10 minutes and 5 points per game each of his three seasons. He’s down to about 6 minutes per game this year, and has not scored. There’s also Kent Auslander, a transfer from Maryland who barely played for the Terrapins and hasn’t played a whole lot more for Coppin State. However, he started and played 28 minutes against Navy, scoring 8 points along with 6 rebounds. He may get extended run again.

In truth, it doesn’t really matter how Juan Dixon uses his guys. He simply doesn’t have the horses to play against Virginia. Or Wisconsin, Dayton or Navy. KenPom has the Eagles as favorites in just five games this season. All five are home games in conference.

This game is technically part of the Battle 4 Atlantis. This is the “mainland” part of the bracket, which doesn’t impact the actual games in the Bahamas. The Wahoos’ next game will be Wednesday, in the Bahamas against Middle Tennessee State. They’ll also play Thursday and Friday. So expect Tony to give some extra rest to guys like Ty, Kyle and Dre in order to keep them fresh for next week.

That extra rest for the Virginia starters is the only thing that could keep this game interesting. Wisconsin led by 22 at halftime against Coppin State and failed to extend that lead. Nobody on the Badgers saw more than 28 minutes. Ethan Happ, interestingly, had a triple double in that game. Considering Ty had 20 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists on Sunday against GW, maybe that could be a goal for him. I’m kidding. Sorta. We know that there are no individual goals for this team. But no Virginia player has ever had a triple double, and it’d sure be fun to see. (Note: Ralph Sampson had 2 triple doubles of points, rebounds and blocks. No Virginia player has ever had a traditional triple double.)

Check it out tonight (Friday) at 7PM at JPJ or airing/streaming on ACC Network Extra.