How good are the Virginia Cavaliers?
Well, their lone ACC loss was a 2 point defeat at Cameron Indoor. Not too shabby.
Is this team reminiscent of last year's Miami team that ran through the conference? Who is their go to guy? What do they have in store for UM tomorrow?
All that and much more as we caught up with Paul Wiley of Streaking the Lawn:
STL: Maybe this is blatant homerism but I don't see much of an argument for any other team being more balanced. You named five guys, all of whom have scored in double digits at least twice in ACC play. We have two more guys who fit that description who come off the bench (Justin Anderson and Anthony Gill). And that's the biggest difference between 2013 and 2014 for U.Va.: last year, Joe Harris had to do everything or we were pretty much screwed; this year, there are lots of hands to share the load and they've all shown they can get hot on a given night.
STL: I'm in law school, so I'll give you the law school answer: It depends. Either one can really take The Shot that wins a game. Brogdon did it at the buzzer at Pittsburgh. Joe did it off a HUGE block in transition by Justin Anderson to seal Maryland's fate in Charlottesville. A lot of us have wanted to see Joe get more aggressive about taking the shot when he has it: see if he goes up for a shot, then passes it instead, but the pass goes straight into the back of a teammate who has turned to box out. I think pretty much everyone in C-Ville is going to be ok with either one of them being the focal point of the offense on a given night. For sentimental reasons, I still prefer Joe.
STL: I've mentioned him twice now so not sure if he counts as unsung, but I think it's gotta be Justin Anderson. Strange to say that about the most highly rated recruit of the Tony Bennett era, I know. But no one ignites the home crowd, the bench and the guys on the floor like Justin when he gets up to LeBron-block someone's layup or makes something just plain ridiculous happen when he drives to his left. He's a young guy with talent surpassed only by his passion for the sport and the fans.
STL: You aren't going to trick me into jinxing this run. Virginia is going to be a hard out come tournament time. As the old saying goes, defense travels; we don't rely on a lot of outside shooting or simply outscoring people and that should work in our favor. A lot of it will come down to what happens these last few games since it's always easiest to win a tournament from the top seed-line. But Coach Bennett has this team focused on the task in front of it first and foremost. Several players have talked about Bennett saying the season is a set of stairs, and you've got to put both feet on one step before you go to the next. We can see the top of the staircase, but right now it's about continuing to take the next step up.
STL: Now you're just trying to get me in trouble. I'll say this first and foremost: Malcolm Brogdon should be on the first team. He has scored in double digits in every single ACC game, in an offense that doesn't do his pure counting stats any favors. So he's my two-guard. I'll take Lamar Patterson at the three and Jabari Parker at the four. Tyler Ennis has earned a spot, even though he is a freshman. Daniel Miller from Georgia Tech is probably my pick for the five, although I don't think there's been a real dominant traditional center this year.
First Team: PG - Tyler Ennis, Syracuse; SG - Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia; SF - Lamar Patterson, Pitt; PF - Jabari Parker, Duke; C - Daniel Miller, Ga Tech
Second Team: PG - Marcus Paige, UNCCH; SG - Quinn Cook, Duke; SF - KJ McDaniels, Clemson; PF - TJ Warren, NC State; C - Ryan Anderson, BC
STL: Garrius Adams, in large part because of his height advantage over Perrantes. Rion Brown at the two should get matched up against Brogdon with Anderson able to come off the bench and match him inch for inch, pound for pound, and speed for speed. Same with Swoope against Harris/Anderson. Down low, Akil can take pretty much all comers (ask Jabari Parker) and there's lots of depth to keep throwing in agile bigs (Gill and Atkins) if Tobey is getting out-quicked. But Adams stands a solid four or five inches over Perrantes, and Teven Jones is even smaller. The best thing about the pack line defense is that it emphasizes team rotation over individual match ups and Bennett specializes in taking the other team's Go To Guy out of the equation. Adams worries me, but that means he's gotten Tony's focus, which makes me feel a lot better.
STL: Miami's momentum the last week or so makes me more nervous about this than I was a few days ago. But these guys got a wakeup call in the squeaker down in Blacksburg and the first half against Notre Dame. The 20-plus point run they put on in the second half is more indicative of what this year's Hoos can do, and the level of focus they should be bringing to JPJ all week. I'm looking to see Virginia come out hard on defense and jump out to a solid ten- to fifteen-point lead in the first half, then maintain that down the stretch. Ken Pomeroy has us as a ten-point favorite, and that feels about right. U.Va. 62, Miami 52.
Thanks again to Paul at Streaking the Lawn for working with us.
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