Mike Scott had ankle surgery on Thursday to remove cartilage.
Just when things started looking up. Ugh.
I can’t help but think that the collective Cavalier nation had feelings along those lines when the Mike Scott news broke shortly before tip-off on Friday night with Oregon. Scott, Virginia senior forward and most productive player to date this season with averages of 16.3 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, had arthroscopic ankle surgery on his left ankle on Thursday, Dec. 16 to remove loose pieces of cartilage. Read the official UVa news release here.
Why now?! UVa had just won back-to-back road contests, quite unexpectedly no less, at Minnesota and Virginia Tech. Momentum, as fickle as that can be, seemed to be building at least a little bit. And Scott had started to put together quite the Norman Nolan impression in his senior season. Heck, Cvillehoops13 just wrote in an article for TheSabre.com this week that Scott is the most important piece of the puzzle for Virginia: “If the season ended today Scott would be sitting comfortably on the All-ACC first team. Scott’s performance has been as good as anyone could have expected and his presence on the court has carried this team. While there has been a lot of balance in the production on this team, if you take Scott out of the equation this is a completely different squad – he is the one guy that it irreplaceable on this team.”
Thus the Hoo groans.
WhWhyyy?!? We seem to lose 2 starters every [year.] – wahoowad
- This is horrible, worse case scenario, arrrrggghh. Get well Mike. – Pierce
- What, oh, what did we Wahoos do to deserve all this. Sorry MS, get well soon. – MBHoo
- I am doubling my Prozac. — 141lile
- So, who was it exactly that cursed us? Dean Smith? Scott Sisson? – Jahidi-hi-di-HOO
For one night at least, the Cavaliers figured out a way to survive without two of their senior captains in the post (Will Sherrill is also out right now with a fractured fibula) against an Oregon roster with no player over 6’8″ in the rotation. The Hoos kept tight tabs on the Ducks’ 3-point shooting (3 of 19, 15.8%) and played even in the rebounding battle (32-30 in Oregon’s favor) to get the victory.
The question, and the reaction from the fans, focused on more than one night, though. Not every team features an undersized line-up on its first road test in late December (Oregon played just once outside of its own arena before Friday night and that one game was in Portland). ACC play in particular could be a tough, tough task.
UVa coach Tony Bennett said it is too early to know for sure how long Scott will be out of action.
“It was more of a skill development practice; he said he thought he tweaked his ankle and I watched it on tape and he didn’t, he just kind of jarred it and it was real sore,” Bennett said. “Whenever we practiced again, he went through the practice at about 70 percent, he couldn’t open it up, and about two-thirds of the way through the practice, his ankle bit again where he couldn’t go. So we got him an MRI and apparently there was a little piece of cartilage that was right on a spot that needed to be flushed out. … I think it was very prudent and a wise decision to do it because it would have been something that would have been reoccurring. It’s unfortunate. Return time? It’s all about how quickly the swelling gets out and how functional he can be. I’m hoping it’s not too long, but a lot depends on the next week probably and how much swelling comes out of it.”
Scott’s absence has a significant impact on the game plan. With him in the line-up, the Hoos often work through dump-down passes, post touches, screening situations, or other tactics where Scott is heavily involved. His play against Minnesota (17 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists) and Virginia Tech (21 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists) forced those teams to account for him with double teams, match-up shifts, and defensive rotations, freeing up space for the other players to find open looks and good shots at the basket.
Against Oregon, the Hoos had to work in different ways to get similar shots since there were much fewer opportunities to work the ball through a traditional post game. KT Harrell got it done with pull-up jumpers off the dribble for example. There were also offensive plays where Harrell, Joe Harris , and others were playing the screener/blocker role instead of the cutter/mover role; that’s because UVa shifted to some line-ups where wings and guards were playing in the power forward slot. It will be interesting to follow how the Cavaliers structure their offense in the coming games with more time to prepare to play without Scott.
“It’s tougher because he attracts so much attention. People on the other team get caught looking at him and we are able get shots off of him,” UVa’s Sammy Zeglinski said. “Without him in the lineup, it’s obviously tougher because of the open shots he creates.”