Chalktalk: Dribble Penetration

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When the Virginia men’s basketball team invades Cameron Indoor Stadium tonight, there is one ‘battle within the battle’ to keep an eye on: dribble penetration. If the Cavaliers’ perimeter players can create offense off the dribble, it will put pressure on a Duke defense that has struggled with quicker, more athletic guards this season. The UVa perimeter players will have to be up to task on the other end of the floor as well – with a team that shoots the ball as well as Duke, dribble penetration could lead to many open looks and easy baskets, which could spell doom for the Cavs.

When Virginia has the ball

J.R. Reynolds is expected to try to play tonight.

UVa has the guards to take advantage of the Blue Devils’ struggles with perimeter defense. Sean Singletary , J.R. Reynolds, Mamadi Diane , and T.J. Bannister all have the ability and quickness to beat most of the Duke players off the bounce. If the Cavaliers, particularly Singletary and Reynolds, drive into the paint, then it should lead to quality offensive opportunities. The biggest beneficiaries? Dribble penetration usually leads to open shots for the wings, particularly catch-and-shoot players like Adrian Joseph .

“You have to [create off the dribble] … because when they pressure the ball and deny the wings, basically they’re telling you to drive it. If you’re good and solid with making decisions when you get in that 15- to 12-foot area, then you can have good things happen for you,” Leitao said after a win over Clemson. “Duke does it the same way and Carolina does it the same way. They really challenge you.”

Of course, dribble drives have had an added bonus against Duke this season. The Devils’ struggles with guard-on-guard defense have forced Shelden Williams into near constant help defense mode. That has led to easy opportunities for active forwards/centers to get easy looks when guards drop off the ball. Even worse for the Devils, Williams has been hit with foul