With the Virginia sports year nearly over (track and field athletes are the only ones left to finish up their season), attention starts to shift toward summer recruiting and the next Hoo year. Kickoff is less than 100 days away and basketball practice will open before you know it.
Since UVA fans continue to be extremely excited about the basketball program, this site has been rattling off some “Ask The Sabre” articles to answer fan questions. Part I talked about small ball for example, while Part II daydreamed about Jay Huff’s potential and more.
Now it’s time for Part III. In this one, the goal is to tackle some big picture questions. What areas will improve next season? What will the team look like by next March? What’s going on with recruiting?
Let’s dive in!
What areas do we think will get better from last year and which do we think will get worse? I.E. will rebounding (defensive or offensive) numbers go up, or go down? How about scoring? Assists? Turnovers? And the like. ~ ProfessiHOOnal
Sabre Editor Kris Wright: I thought a big picture question would be a good way to start this group of questions. There’s obviously a lot of anticipation for the upcoming season as young faces take on big roles. So what that will look like is an interesting topic.
I decided to break this down into two camps and tackle a top 3 for each.
Offensive rebounding percentage. I think this is an area that will go up from last year because I think personnel additions will bump it up. The real question is will it reach the range of three and four years ago? Over the past five years, UVA’s offensive rebounding percentage (number of available offensive boards actually rebounded) checked out like this: 2012-2013 – 280th nationally at 26.3%, 2013-14 – 100th at 31.6%, 2014-15 – 43rd at 33.6%, 2015-16 – 151st at 28.4%, and 2016-17 – 215th at 25.9%.
One reason there was a dramatic decline last season from the previous three was that Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey graduated. That duo combined for 71 and 61 O-Boards over their final two seasons. Isaiah Wilkins, Jack Salt, Mamadi Diakite, and Jarred Reuter combined for just 53 last season. With Jay Huff and De’Andre Hunter likely getting into the rotation plus what likely will be more playing time for Diakite, I think that number climbs.
3-point shooting %/3-point volume. Virginia’s 3-point shooting percentage has ranked in the top three in the ACC in three of the past four years, including first and second over the last two seasons. And now you have at least two potentially prolific shooters in Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy expected to pick up more playing time. It may be hard to beat the 40.3% of 2016, which ranked 10th nationally, but I do expect the number to hold steady above 36.9%. Here are the last five years of 3-point shooting percentage and 3-point volume (how many 3-point shots are among the total shots):
- 2013: 32.3% at 34.3%
- 2014: 36.9% at 29.7%
- 2015: 35.0% at 27.5%
- 2016: 40.3% at 28.3%
- 2017: 38.5% at 33.0%
The volume, the second percentage in that list, is what I’m most interested to monitor. In six of Bennett’s eight seasons, the 3-point rate has fell between 27.5% and 31%. Last season’s 33% was the second highest 3-point rate of his tenure and that ranked just 252nd nationally. The highwater mark for 3-point rate came in Bennett’s second season (2010-2011) when the Hoos attempted 36.2% of their shots as 3-pointers, which ranked 87th nationally that season. (In a sign of the changing game, that same rate would have ranked 179th this past season.)
Virginia’s current personnel isn’t shy about letting it fly from beyond the arc, though. Both Guy (50.2%) and Jerome (66.4%) took more shots from behind the line than in front of it last season for example, while there are expectations that Jay Huff and De’Andre Hunter can take them too. Plus, Marial Shayok (21.3%) moved on and those minutes likely are going to someone at a higher rate in that spot.
FT rate. This was a major story line all season long this past season and the number (free throws attempted per field goals attempted) ended up at 26%, which ranked 347th out of 351 teams. Of note, that’s the only time in Bennett’s eight seasons it dropped below 30%. I think there will be an emphasis on fixing that number this offseason.
Defensive rebounding percentage. The Cavaliers ranked ninth nationally in this category last season at 78% (percent grabbed of available defensive rebounds). The Cavaliers have not been below 77.3% in the last four years, all featuring NCAA Tournament berths. They’ve never ranked outside the top 50 nationally under Tony Bennett. Simply put, this is a non-negotiable and it will hold steady.
Block percentage. Last season, UVA flirted with a Bennett-era high in this category (percent of shots blocked among those taken). The team ended up at 8.3%, just behind the 8.7% of 2012-13 and the 8.5% of 2014-15. Of note, the Hoos have not been below 6.4% over the past five seasons. Adding Jay Huff to the mix along with what could be more playing time for Mamadi Diakite should keep this number steady again.
Assist-turnover. Another area that has held steady for five straight seasons, all of which landed Virginia in postseason play, has been assist to turnover ratio. The Cavaliers haven’t fallen below 1.25 to 1 in that time span. During London Perrantes’ four seasons, you’ll find the current Bennett era highs of 1.31, 1.36, 1.60, and 1.46. I don’t think this category will fall off much even though Perrantes has moved on.
If you’re looking for UVA’s formula to making the postseason, those last three categories provide a nice glimpse don’t they?
Would love to hear how good you think we will be by tournament time and barring injury what you expect the team to look like and how that differs from the prior year? ~ NoPlaceLikeHoo
Sabre Editor Kris Wright: This is a “way too early bracketology” question in a sense. But those are fun. Off the top, while there are no guarantees in any year, I believe Tony Bennett has pushed this Virginia program to a point where the NCAA Tournament is a bottom expectation. I don’t think there are going to be many years where there are even bubble concerns. As for seeding, the Cavaliers settled into the fifth seed in the East this past year. I’m guessing that range, between a 3 and 8 seed, is in play again as the most likely landing area.
My reasoning there is to allow for some growth from this year’s group. Yes, Virginia rattled off 1 and 2 seeds for three straight years before slipping a bit last season, but those teams featured Malcolm Brogdon, one of the program’s must successful players. This year, the Hoos will have to make the field without London Perrantes at the helm too. Remember, a team with Joe Harris, Mike Tobey, and Justin Anderson – who all have played in the NBA – among others didn’t even make the tournament as a bubble team back in 2012-13.
While this team is possibly more talented offensively than that one, players logging playing time as featured majored players for the first time can have some ups and downs. All in all, I’d expect this team to get better month to month, to be a tough out and a factor in the ACC race, and a potential headache for opponents in the Big Dance.
I think the team will be more balanced playing at a little faster pace to get there. I think the ball will move more quickly with multiple passers possibly on the floor at the same time. I think the defense will be foul prone at times as players get into a groove, but I think the length that could be on the floor will be suffocating at times for some opponents. Bottom line: I can’t wait to see this team develop.
Seems as if a lot of folks would like to know how “conditional” are the offers we extend to potential recruits. Some think that whoever calls first is the player who gets the scholarship. Others imagine that the coaches order the recruits in order of how much we want each one, and number 8 doesn’t get the ship until number 2 declines. Lots of speculation. What’s the skinny? ~ corkydoggy
Sabre Associate Editor Chris Horne: Both sides are correct, depending on the situation. There are certainly situations where there is one spot available and there may be several players the coaches would take a commitment from. In that case, it’s first come, first served. But the latter situation occurs as well and can be difficult to navigate. For example, in class of 2018 recruiting we know that point guard is a top priority. Virginia has missed on some early targets but remains in contention with top blue-chippers like Jahvon Quinerly. If another point guard target wants to come on board, does the staff accept or do they wait and let other recruitments play out?
Both situations happen, though. It depends on what strategy the coaches have in a particular class (the strategic part can be fluid, especially in this transfer age), the talent level at a particular position in a class, etc.
We have a lot of recruiting offers out there. Who would be your ideal “gets,” and briefly, why? ~ OldeWahoo
Sabre Associate Editor Chris Horne: Jahvon Quinerly, PG – Landing a top point guard is a top priority. Quinerly, who has the feel, the skill, the confidence, and the competitiveness to play a key role for Virginia from day one, would be a great fit on a team of top shooters such as Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy. He can set guys up but he can also score.
Keldon Johnson, Wing – I love Johnson’s scoring ability. He combines a nice midrange game with the ability to get to the basket and finish. I really liked the scrappiness he showed on defense when I saw him in Hampton this spring. I think a Malcolm Brogdon comparison could be an accurate one.
Musa Jallow, Wing – Virginia fans understandably want more skilled offensive players, but Bennett’s bread-and-butter is defense. Jallow brings great versatility on the defensive end. I think he could be a real force in the Pack Line and guard multiple spots. An improving offensive performer, too.
J’Raan Brooks, Post – Another player with a really nice offensive game, Brooks is a big who can score inside and out. Good size and a solid athlete as well.