Virginia Basketball Double Bonus: Michigan

Virginia Cavaliers Ben Vander Plas
Ben Vander Plas and Virginia grabbed a road win at Michigan. ~ Photo courtesy of Virginia Athletics Media Relations/Tony Davis

The Virginia basketball team rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to win at Michigan. The Hoos kept their undefeated start intact with that rally and added another quality victory alongside Illinois and Baylor from the Las Vegas Main Event.

That pushes UVA into the start of ACC play on Saturday against Florida State with a 6-0 record. That figures to be a tougher test than previous home games with North Carolina Central, Monmouth, and Maryland-Eastern Shore, though the Seminoles are off to an uncharacteristically bad 1-8 start.

With the team clicking early, let’s get to another early season Double Bonus for a closer look before the conference opener.

Empty Early

One thing I spotted on the replay was that Virginia had a clear game plan to flow into the part of its offense that features on-ball screens with two players isolated on a side of the floor. This empty side concept was in use frequently in the first half against Michigan.

In fact, the Cavaliers’ first possession of the game went with this look featuring Kihei Clark and Jayden Gardner. Clark dribbled off the screen and delivered the ball to Gardner as he rolled away from it. That one ended up in an offensive foul call on Gardner.

It was a lot more successful in future trips.

On the very next possession, the Hoos flowed back to it on the opposite side of the floor with Reece Beekman and Kadin Shedrick. This time, Beekman used the screen and threaded a pocket pass to his teammate. Shedrick caught it off the bounce and soared in for a leaning layup to get Virginia on the board.

That combo led to a layup for the post. Later in the early minutes, a guard benefited instead. Clark dribbled off the screen from Shedrick, found a seam, and hit a tough runner off the glass for two points. Again, the screening concept came with two players on the empty side of the floor in terms of teammates or helps defenders.

Still within the first eight minutes of the game, Beekman found some room to operate out of this empty side ball screen strategy too. This time, however, the Hoos took advantage of a rescreen concept. Francisco Caffaro fired a pass to Beekman and followed it with the on-ball screen just like the looks above. Beekman came off the screen this time, stopped, and then attacked back around Caffaro setting a second on-ball screen. Beekman managed to turn the corner and then finished with a reverse layup.

That’s three baskets in the first eight minutes that all came through the flow of the offense, but it looked like Virginia wanted to get its motion into that phase purposefully as part of the game plan.

More On Virginia Ball Screens

Long-time Hoo fans might read that last section or watch this year and wonder where the heck this uptick in on-ball screens for this team. Virginia, after all, is not a heavy on-ball screening program typically. That’s still true when compared to other college programs, of course, but the frequency has increased compared to most years of the Tony Bennett era.

If you look at the last five seasons in the Synergy Sports data, the current team is creating offense with the pick-and-roll