What we learned from a dominant Cavaliers victory.
The Virginia Cavaliers took on the North Carolina A&T Aggies on Tuesday night, winning 80-51 and never really threatening the game, even just competitive. With UVA’s third win of the season, we have five takeaways for the ‘Hoos moving forward.
Virginia is starting four freshmen for the first time in… a while
I’m not entirely sure this isn’t the first time under Tony Bennett’s tenure that four freshmen have started a game for UVA. In Isaac McKneely, Ryan Dunn, Andrew Rohde and (notably) Blake Buchanan starting alongside Reece Beekman in this match, it happened for the first time in my memory.
Buchanan starting after his brilliant outing against Florida is impressive to see. He deserved it, and getting him these first minutes will be valuable in the future. He committed two fouls in 15 minutes, but also added six points, three rebounds, two assists, a nice block and a steal.
This will likely be UVA’s best lineup this season, and these five are their five best players. Honestly, it’s kind of fun to have so much youth and potential on the court at the same time, and it’s cool that UVA has put together a roster built for both the present and the future.
Isaac McKneely leaves game with lower leg injury
Late in the first half, Isaac McKneely injured his lower leg after what looked like an awkward collision with an Aggie player. He got up quite quickly before limping into the tunnel and the locker rooms. After halftime, he came back with a small boot on his left foot and some sort of splint or compression sock on the same calf.
The injury didn’t appear too serious and Tony Bennett said after the game that “we had x-rays and it wasn’t broken” and that McKneely “fell on someone’s foot.”
It appears McKneely won’t benefit from an extended absence, and if he’s available next Monday for the Wisconsin game, that’s all that really matters.
Leon Bond can take over a match against the right match
It may not yet be able to launch this type of production in the face of serious competition. But you can see what makes Leon Bond such an enticing prospect on both ends of the court. With 16 points on an extremely impressive 8-10 shooting performance, Bond made the most of his 19 minutes in the third game of the season.
He coached the Aggies in the middle post and as a mid-range shooter while continuing to play on the offensive boards with two, including another put-back dunk.
Finding ways to put Bond on the field against real competition will be the question mark. Could he work the three-man offense in the triangle as a guy to attack “mismatches” against teams without size in the backcourt? Can he survive four against the ACC frontcourts? Both are somewhat of an unknown at the moment, but it’s worth trying to keep him in the rotation because of the immediate impact he can have on the court.
UVA relies heavily on its inside triangle attack
I don’t have the efficiency or volume statistics at the moment. But anecdotally, Virginia used its inside triangle/three-man for the majority of offensive possessions, primarily to generate touches in the middle of the post for guys like Bond and Rohde and to create driving lanes for Reece Beekman. All things considered, they were pretty darn effective and imposed their superior size on the Aggies well all night.
It will be interesting to see how present this offense will be outside of this game. It made sense to play heavy against the Aggies due to the size advantage and guys who received extended playing time in this match.
But will he be a central part of the program like he was last season for several periods? This could allow UVA to space the floor on the wings while letting Beekman attack off the dribble, but it’s far from the only offense that allows them to do that. If UVA wants Bond, Rohde or Dunn to be scorers in the middle of the post, then it’s the offense that generates those looks.
Ryan Dunn is a dominant athletic force
To make up for not giving him his own conclusions after his absurd defensive performance against Florida, Dunn gets one from this game. In just 21 minutes against the Aggies, Dunn scored 13 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, blocked three shots, had two steals and shot 4-5 from the floor and 5-6 from the free throw line. After starting the season 4-8 from the line, that’s encouraging.
Defensively, Dunn is simply one of the best in the country. On the ball, he’s a threat who simply won’t be beaten. Off the ball, his rotations have been incredibly clean, and he and Beekman are an incredible pair to have as weakside defenders. It’s not hyperbole to call him the best non-center defender in college basketball right now because of his versatility as a defender.