"Hoo" is Worrying? Back More Experienced Virginia at VCU

Rainman M.

Friday, November 17, 2017 2:32 PM UTC

Friday, Nov. 17, 2017 2:32 PM UTC

VCU (2-0) hosts Virginia (2-0) Friday at 4:00 pm ET. The visiting 'Hoos are favored by 7. Read on and find out where the value is at for this college basketball matchup.

Free NCAAB Pick: Virginia -8Best Line Offered: Heritage

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Virginia Cavaliers vs Virginia Commonwealth Rams

The popular opinion about this year's Virginia team is decidedly negative. The Hoos' notorious offensive struggles culminated in a 39-point performance against Florida in the NCAA tournament last season. Then in the offseason, they lost starting point guard London Perrantas to graduation and important scorers Mariel Shayok and Darius Thompson to transfer.

But the pessimism is overstated. Significant freshman talent developed last season, while Virginia was combing through its roster for playmakers.

The most notable talent is Kyle Guy, whose best freshman performance included scoring nearly a third of UVA's 53 points in a win against No. 5 UNC. When UVA played more of "man-bun," they benefited from the spark that he provides as a playmaker, who makes up for his small size by creating shooting opportunities and making jump shots reliably. Guy's first 30+ minute games came in a stretch from February 25 to March 8. UVA was 4-0 SU and ATS in that stretch and Guy shot over 50% in three of those games. Last season overall, he shot 49.5% from three. 

Defensively, a now-healthy Isaiah Wilkins is a critical presence in the backcourt. He led the team in rebounds and blocks per game.

UVA has ample continuity to execute its pack-line defense, the style that slows opponents by forcing them to dribble into help and then pass the ball behind the perimeter where the player will attempt a contested three-pointer.

The 'Hoos also benefit from the addition of senior guard Nigel Johnson, who averaged double-digit points last season at Rutgers. The guy can replace Thompson at guard and Johnson can replace Shayok in the rotation.

VCU, on the other hand, returns 1 player from last season's starting lineup. Power forward Justin Tillman, who averaged 8.7 rebounds per game, will use his experience and size to compete with Wilkins on the glass. Three backups from last season are asked to take starting jobs, including then third-stringer Malik Crowfield at point guard.

The Rams' tandem at guard is Crowfield and Jonathan Williams. Naturally a shooting guard, Crowfield is best known for being a sharp-shooter. Last season, he averaged 35% from three. Williams, conversely, is unreliable from behind the arc but is best at penetrating into the interior.

De'Riante Jenkins is a sophomore whose experience was limited by an injury last season that cost him 15 games.

Khris Lane is no taller than Tillman and loses three inches at the center to his very physical, defensive-oriented counterpart Jack Salt.

Mike Rhoades is VCU's new head coach at Rice who favors tempo.

 

The Verdict

VCU lacks depth. Like UVA, they replace a key playmaker in the frontcourt, JeQuan Lewis. But Crowfield only averaged 10 minutes per game last season and will have a greater leap to make in overtaking responsibility than Williams, who played only 54 minutes against ranked competition last season, and than his UVA counterpart, Ty Jerome. Jerome, beginning against #1 Villanova on 1/29, was consistently logging in 20 minutes per game. VCU lacks that shooter who can make the inevitable contested threes against UVA as well as the guard talent to create space for teammates by penetrating against a high-caliber defense.

Size and depth are missing from VCU's backcourt as well. They are outmatched by UVA's trio of experienced shot-blockers, Wilkins, Salt, and the ever improving and bulking Mamadi Diakite. 6 of VCU's newcomers lack D-I experience. UVA has the edge in playmakers, experience with the coach's scheme, depth, and physicality on our NCAAB picks.

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