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It isn’t a secret that the Virginia men’s basketball renaissance ushered in over the past several seasons by Tony Bennett was built on defense. His teams have been among the toughest, and stingiest defensive teams in college basketball.
Last year’s squad was considered one of the favorites to topple Kentucky before Justin Anderson got hurt, hampering an offense that wasn’t exactly stellar to start. The pressure fell onto the shoulders of consensus All-American Malcolm Brogdon.
The Cavaliers could never really get right before losing in the Sweet 16 to Michigan State.
The offense that kept the ‘Hoos from making a deeper run into March is no longer much of a problem. Anderson is gone to the Dallas Mavericks but Brogdon is back and he’s been better than ever.
He’s joined by a few players that, like Brogdon, just continued to improve throughout their careers. They aren’t one-and-dones. In fact, they’re quite the opposite. These guys are just good basketball players that come together to be a really, really good team.
I broke down the Cavaliers’ pack line defense yesterday, and I strongly suggest you give it a read if you like learning. Today, as my late Grandpa would’ve said, “I’m going to learn you something,” else.
Let’s look at the film to break down the nation’s sixth most efficient offense. I have to apologize for the video quality, my Internet can be slower than the Super Dog line after the bars close on a Friday.
Everything for the Cavaliers starts with Brogdon. It doesn’t matter if it is the offensive or defensive ends, he is the driving force. He’s the first player to be named the ACC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season. If it wasn’t for a couple guys with the last names of Hield and Valentine, Brogdon would be the National Player of the Year.
I guess you could describe him as a jack of all trades, master of none type of player on the offensive end. He is going to do everything really well, but he isn’t going to be elite at anything. He’s an efficient shooter from multiple levels with the ability to shoot from behind the arc and then knock down fade away jumpers in the post, and they’ll run actions to get him in the post often.
He does a good job of using his length and size advantage in order to clear space for his shot. He also sees the floor and defenders well like right here when he splits the defenders to score in the middle of the lane.
As a whole the Cavaliers set a ton of screens off the ball in their offense. One of the basic sets is a post setting a screen for a wing flashing high on each side of the floor. They’ll run these screens off the baseline up the perimeter over and over looking to get an opening.
They’ll use pin screens and flare screens off the stack picks in order to open up shooters like Brogdon right here.
I find it incredibly hard to believe that Malcolm Brogdon isn’t going to find a really good spot in the NBA. The more I watched him, it even made me a little angry that he’s projected as the No. 35 pick in this year’s NBA Draft according to Draft Express.
That was until I looked at a list of past No. 35 overall picks. Draymond Green, DeAndre Jordan, Glen Rice, Jimmy King and (imagine a look of surprise) Tony Bennett! That’s some pretty good company, including Brogdon’s coach.
I guess I can’t be too mad about that slot in the Mock Draft even though they have some guy named Furkan Kormaz going No. 17 overall. I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand the NBA.
This is another guy that has done nothing but improve from the minute he stepped on campus in Charlottesville. He’s a pass first point guard that’s seen his scoring average increase from 5.5 points per game as a freshman to 10.9 points in his junior season.
He shoots 48 percent from behind the arc and is a good distributor averaging 4.3 assists per game. Think a better passing version of Texas’ Javan Felix. He’s incredibly crafty with the pass and Virginia will use a lot of different looks to get him into space where he can make decisions with the ball.
Perrantes takes the ball out of bounds in that clip before they set a screen for him. While he’s going around the screen he’s reading his defender and the help defenders in the middle of the lane to see if he should just pop out to catch a jumper or curl into the lane.
Here he curls into the lane, draws defenders and kicks it out for an open 3-pointer. He is relied on to make a lot snap decisions with the ball but he’s really good at doing it.
He’s also pretty adept at creating his own shot.
The man with arguably college basketball’s best head of hair is another one that fits the improving all the time mold. Gill’s increased his scoring averages a little each season since transferring from South Carolina after his freshman year.
He’s a guy that plays with a ton of toughness on both ends of the floor and has pretty good touch when finishing above the rim. The Cavaliers aren’t a huge offensive rebounding team but Gill is usually pretty active.
They aren’t going to get him in isolated post situations very often but he’s capable when he gets there.
Gill is just another really, really solid basketball player.
I don’t expect Tobey to get a ton of minutes against the Cyclones on Friday but the 6-foot-11-inch senior is the Cavaliers’ best option with a true center. He’s been remarkably consistent during his four seasons at Virginia averaging between 6.4 and 6.9 points each season.
He’s a guy coming off the bench that’s capable of scoring with his back to the basket.
Or he can catch and knock down a mid-range jumper.
Isaiah Wilkins, Evan Nolte, Darius Thompson, Marial Shayok and Devon Hall
These five guys make up the rest of the main rotation for the Cavaliers. They aren’t going to look to set Wilkins up to create for himself but he’s able to finish around the rim, rebound and play good defense. He is a guy with a really solid frame that doesn’t score a ton but plays well in his role.
Nolte has had his career ravaged by injuries after he shot close to 40 percent from behind the arc as a freshman. He’s shooting 32 percent from 3-point land this season and is still a guy that you can’t let get rolling.
Thompson, Shayok and Hall all play similar roles as rebounders and good defenders. None of them are going to be relied on heavily but they’re capable when they need to be.
Brogdon is the guy that jumps out at you when you first start watching the Cavaliers but it quickly becomes clear that the other guys around him are pretty dang good too. These two teams matchup pretty well and I have a feeling this game is going to be a ton of fun.
In the words of Bart Scott: can’t wait.