Thursday night at McCamish Pavilion, the Virginia Cavaliers, the #2 team in the country, come to town...of course, ice and snow permitting. Virginia is 16-1 on the season and 5-0 in ACC play. They currently sit atop the ACC standings but might be moving back after a battle with the #3 team in the ACC, the Duk.....Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
Leading the Cavaliers is Seth MacFarlane’s long-lost brother, Tony Bennett. The two-time National Coach of the Year and in his 9th season at Virginia, Coach Bennett is the other half of Coach Pastner’s get old, stay old motto with Notre Dame’s Mike Brey. Tony Bennett is known for his grind it out defense and working the clock for a good shot on offense. While this type of game plan does not attract the 1 and done guys, UVA has been able to land those four-star players that are super talented but need 3-4 years of development to go pro or be a really solid college basketball player. So far this year, it is no different. The Cavaliers are still playing rock solid defense, but they added something that was missing in the past...offensive weapons, and even scarier...from multiple different players.
To start it off, I will begin with probably the most notable player on the UVA roster. Even though he has let down thousands of people on Twitter by shaving off his man bun, the 6’2” sophomore #5, Kyle Guy is still a fan favorite. Guy is averaging 15.5 points per game and is shooting 44% from behind the arc. If you need a reference, think of Fletcher Magee from Wofford. He can flat out shoot the ball, plain and simple. Now that you have wiped off your sweat following Magee flashbacks, we can continue breaking down Kyle Guy. He has added a nice pump fake and pull up if you close out too strongly on three-point attempts, along with a nice floater if he gets closer to the rim. Defensively, he has been improving and is now constantly sliding his feet, moving over to take a charge and getting those slap down steals that lead to fast breaks. Due to his size, it will be interesting to see if Tech tries to get Tadric on the block against Guy. Especially with a good defender in Devon Hall focusing on Okogie.
Speaking of Hall, #0, he is one of the biggest pieces for Virginia as a 6’5” redshirt senior. The lefty is averaging 12.5 points per game and is shooting 47% from three. He usually plays the 3 in the lineup and can do a little bit of everything for UVA. Hall has nice court vision, hits open shots, and plays tough defense all game, as you will see is a trend for all these Virginia players. Not much more to say. Hall will play hard and get the job done. Every. Single. Night.
Here comes the “Human Highlight” #21, Domin....Isaiah Wilkins. The 6’7” senior out of Greater Atlanta Christian Academy, previously known as “oh hey, that’s Dominique’s kid” during the first two and half years of his career at UVA, is now a vastly improved, above average ACC player. He has always had the athleticism and energy, but has finally put it all together. If you don’t believe me just look at college hoops and one of GTSwarm's posters favorite's, Jon Rothstein’s twitter. Book it. It seems like every game he tweets “Isaiah Wilkins, ultimate glue guy” and that is what he is. His defense is spectacular and at the moment, I say he wins ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Now that he has added an offensive game, he is a serious threat and someone that needs to be held in check.
The other guard for UVA is the 6’5” sophomore out of New York #11, Ty Jerome. Even though he was rated a 4-star by most of the services, I believe he is severely underrated. As you might be shocked, he is sound player that does a lot of things right (they have those at UVA?). He can shoot it, play defense as he loves to get the poke from behind steals, and works the ball around to the open teammate. It seems like he is always the one to make the extra pass to Guy in the corner for the three and assist. Despite not wearing any accessories or having the “off the bus factor”, Ty Jerome is a baller.
The big man for Tony Bennett is #33, Jack Salt. Not only does his name sound like some fake name celebrities use when booking a reservation, but the 6’10” redshirt junior out of New Zealand has a lot of skill. He feeds off of drop-off passes in the paint for the two-handed jam and hits the backside offensive glass for easy put backs. He has a huge frame much like Purdue’s Isaac Haas and is a force down low. You are not going to move him out of the way, and if he boxes you out like he typically does, you might as well start running back on defense. Though, an area where Salt struggles is with fouling. He tends to hack and reach when he does not need to. If Lammers or AD are at the line a lot tonight, Tech should be in an advantageous position.
The wild card for Virginia is the redshirt freshman out of Philly #12, De’Andre Hunter. The 6’7” wing who was upset that he had to redshirt last year, has come out with a mission in his first campaign. If you could go to a factory and design a body type for a wing, Hunter would be the model to use. With the help of his athleticism, he has brought some needed change of pace and high-flying action to Charlottesville to go along with the great defense and ball movement already established.
The two other players that typically round out the UVA rotation are 6’1” grad transfer from Rutgers #23, Nigel Johnson, along with 6’9” redshirt sophomore #25, Mamadi Diakite. Out of the two Johnson is the shooter and Diakite is the slasher. Diakite's jump shot is still a work in progress, but his vertical needs no work. Like Hunter, he comes off the bench with energy and tries to get some fast break dunks to extend the lead while the starters get a little rest. When Johnson comes in, he is in there to keep the offense moving, make the smart upperclassmen choices with the ball, and hit the open shot when available.
Prediction: Georgia Tech will have a lot on their plate, but offensively it is setting up for Tadric Jackson to break out. He is due, and I have a "Boston College from last year" feeling about this game. If he can slash and get into the lane, or on the block/high post against Guy, I like Tech's chances. Georgia Tech will also need Alston and Alvarado to hit open threes on the wing when we swing it, along with Haywood when he is in there. I will be surprised if Okogie has a big game, but if he does, I will feel confident in a W. With all this considered, I still can’t bring myself to picking them...them as in Virginia. Tech by 6. *cue Pastner pumping up the crowd as he walks into the tunnel after the game*