Maui Classic: Scouting Virginia

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by Craig Yamada

Who: UW (2-0) vs. Virginia (2-1)

When: Monday, 11/22 – 9 PM PST

Where: Lahaina Civic Center (Maui)

Coverage: ESPN2

ALOHA. Yes, we all wish we were in Maui right now. Power to you if you are attending in person. Unfortunately the rest of us common folk are stuck in Seattle watching this shindig on TV. Yet, there is much cause for excitement as UW opens the Maui Invitational against a familiar face, Coach Tony Bennett, and his Virginia Cavaliers.

The Cavs are coming off a huge loss to the hands of a young Stanford Cardinal team, 81-60. The Cavaliers are a very young team themselves as they feature seven freshmen in their lineup. The youth and inexperience of Virginia was exploited by a Cardinal team that was on fire from beyond the arc. But don’t let that fool you, from the highlights I have seen, this Cavalier team has the capability to light it up beyond the arc and have many talented pieces in place to challenge anyone they face.

Virginia 101: If anyone knows how to play the Huskies tough, it is Tony Bennett. Bennett has dominated Romar in head to head matches dating back to his days at WSU. However, the personnel that Virginia features is not much like his old WSU team. Virginia’s best player from last year, Sylven Landesberg, averaged 17.3 ppg last year and is now sidelined with an injury. Their floor leader in the backcourt is Mustafa Farrakhan. After watching the Stanford game, its easy to see that Farrakhan is their catalyst on offense. He is a left handed slashing guard who can likes to take guys off the dribble one on one.  Mustafa is averaging 11.7 ppg. Their leading scorer thus far is their 6’8” PF Mike Scott. Scott is averaging nearly a double double each game with 15 ppg and 9 rebounds/game. Jontel Evans is a very aggressive and talented guard. He has a quick first step and a jumper which he hits at a high percentage. Their biggest weapon is not featured in their starting five. That weapon manifests itself in the form of Billy Barron, their three point specialist. Looking at their first two games, Barron is slinger from anywhere on the floor. He is shooting 54% from beyond the arc and is averaging 11.7 ppg off the bench.

Virginia is a drive and kick style offense. Their guards love to penetrate and pass out to outside shooters. Their bigs do possess a  variety of post moves they can deploy, headlined by Mike Scott. At 6’8”, he could prove to be a handful for MBA and Gant in the post. Barron and Joe Harris are their two deep threats that UW will have to extend its defense on. Their heralded freshman is KT Harrell who is averaging 7.0 ppg. KT could easily be the most talented player they have, but Bennett is bringing him along slowly as he is shooting 38% from the field to start the season. I expect Harrell to be one of the better players in the ACC in two years.

On defense, they are straight up man to man and pick up at half court.

Starting Lineup:

G – Jontel Evans (5’11”) – 9.0 ppg

G – Mustapha Farrakhan (6’4”)  – 11.7 ppg

SF – Joe Harris (6’6”) – 7.3 ppg

PF – Mike Scott (6’8”) – 15.0 ppg

C – Assane Sene (7’0”) – 1.3 ppg

Huskies 101: The Huskies are coming off  two blow out victories against Eastern Washington and McNeese St. Now they are ready to take on some of the nation’s best teams to serve as a true barometer of this team’s potential. Romar is still fiddling around with his 10 man rotation and will likely be down to 9 by the end of the tournament. It should be interesting to see how he chooses to split time between Suggs, Wilcox and Ross when they play some of the bigger teams in the tourney. Against Virginia, they could get away with the lineup they have used for the past two games with Gant and MBA in the post. The 7 footer on Virginia is not a threat on offense. Much like Aziz, he is in there to change the rhythm of the opposing offense. The health of Venoy Overton could prove to be the X-factor in terms of how far this team goes in this tourney and this year. Venoy seems to be limited in practice right now but still has two more days to heal before play starts. He should be fine. Again, here are UW’s likely starters:

PG – Gaddy, SG – IT, SF – Holiday, PF – Gant, C -MBA

Huskies win if:

  • They can convert 50-60% from beyond the arc. Judging from the Stanford game, Virginia is soft in their pressure around the arc. UW will need to swing the ball quickly around the perimeter to find the open man
  • They win one on one battles. UW guards will need to be able to penetrate and get their way into the lane. Stanford burned Virginia with quickness as they got to the rack at will.
  • They force 20+ turnovers. Virginia is 2-0 when they have 12 or fewer turnovers. Stanford was able to turn them over 15 times. I will hold UW to their normal quota and they should be fine
  • They can push the ball up the floor in transition or off a made basket. Many of Stanford’s points were generated in catching Virginia off guard as they got set in their man defense off a made basket.

Huskies lose if:

  • They look forward to the UK game. UW could easily get caught up in the hype of the game that possibly awaits them in the next round and forget about a talented Virginia team looking for an upset.
  • They let Barron go off. Barron is their spark plug and will need to be swarmed by Venoy Overton all game to keep them off the scoreboard.
  • They get out rebounded. Virginia averages around 29 rebounds a game and has won the battle of the boards in their two wins this year. They were out rebounded 29-24 in their loss to Stanford.
  • They put Virginia on the stripe too often. Although Virginia looked like a struggling offense against Stanford, they excelled from the line. As a team they are shooting 80% from the line. And vice versa, UW will need to be better than their 53% FT percentage if they want to advance.

Prediction:

UW kick starts their tourney right. UW wins 96 – 80.