GAMEDAY Q&A GAMEDAY Q&A GAMEDAY Q&A
Here we go again. This time, in
We talk Mike Scott, Tony Bennett and our bestie Sammy Zeglinski (the best Hayes of the Day this side of Hayes himself) after the jump...
1.) By all accounts, Virginia is having a terrific year. Break down the season in general and talk about fan support of the team.
That's right. We ARE having a great year, and by golly, UVA fans deserve it. We've gone through some pretty long droughts, and it's about time we have football and basketball programs on the rise. The season started with a lot of hype and anticipation. We've got two fifth-year seniors on the team, one of whom is a legitimate candidate for ACC Player of the Year. For the most part, Virginia has beaten the teams they're supposed to, while staying competitive in the games where they're underdogs. Yes, there are a couple suspect losses in there, namely to Virginia Tech and TCU, but you've got to look at the total package. We were able to get a win against Michigan, where we were underdogs, and we didn't drop any true road out of conference games, which usually we can expect to do at least once. Fan support is at a long-time high, especially since it's already the second week of February, barely, and Virginia hasn't collapsed yet.
2.) UVA is a fantastic defensive team, ranking in the top 20 in defensive efficiency, eFG% and oReb%. For those who don't know, give Demon Deacon fans a quick synopsis of what makes Tony Bennett such a dangerous coach defensively.
Coach Bennett uses what's known as the pack-line defense, a sort of "soft zone" defense that was created by his father, Dick Bennett, for whom he played. The idea is that there is an imaginary line a couple feet inside the three-point arc that the players are instructed to defend. This in essence will "pack" the lane and make it difficult for opponents to drive to the hoop - there's just too much traffic. On the flip side, it does open up the three-point shooting a bit, so if you have some shooters on your team that can take it from a foot outside the arc, they should be able to have somewhat of a field day. If it looks like they're about to shoot, a defender will go outside the pack line to at least contest the shot.
Part of the defense is also that Virginia doesn't like to give up a lot of transition points. Virginia's offensive rebounds are few and far in between, but this is by design. After a shot, players are instructed to get back on defense rather than hit the boards.
The third part of the defense is that Virginia loves double-teaming. Players are taught to be aware of where the ball is at all times and when adding an extra man on a player will pay off dividends. The players aren't generally told to double-team a certain person, but if the opportunity presents itself, it won't matter who has the ball, the help defense is on its way.
3.) While the Cavaliers have won some big games this year, they've also allowed teams to stay in it. Their four losses have come by a combined 10 points, and they've won a lot of close games, including sub-double digit wins to Drake, Seattle, Towson and LSU out of conference. Is there a worry that teams that aren't as talented as Virginia can hang around and steal one from the Cavs?
Absolutely. Because of the low number of possessions in any game, we don't very often blow out opponents (I'm still laughing at you, Georgia Tech.). It means that if a team can keep up in the first 35 minutes - which most teams have - if they can get hot in the final five minutes, they stand a real chance at stealing one from the Hoos (Florida State did this at the end). That's definitely a concern. But presumably, this should even out on the other end, which is that Virginia's slow play allows them to keep in just about any game - take a look at the Duke game, as an example. Of the four games you listed, Seattle was a bit of a fluke. They controlled the tempo and scored way more than Virginia is ever comfortable with, and more than any other team has scored on us all season. They're going to be a force when they finally become Division I. Yeah that's right, I said it.
4.) Who is the x-factor in this one for you guys? Who should Wake watch out for (and you're not allowed to say National Player of the Year candidate Mike Scott, or Sammy Zeglinski, since we've already used him before)?
That's hardly fair that you asked me for the X factor and then took away our two main X factors. But fine, I'll play your little game. Keep an eye out on Jontel Evans. You won't have to do much to defend him from long or even mid-range, but whoever has the ball for Wake should keep one eye on the basket, one eye on his defender, and one eye on wherever Bub Evans is. Evans plays excellent defense from wherever he is on the court. He's got a bit of the kleptomaniac in him and will oftentimes take swipes at the ball. Luckily, he hasn't been particularly effective on the fast break, so the steal won't necessarily turn into points.
5.) How has Virginia recovered from the loss of Assane Sene?
I think the Hoos have recovered quite nicely. We had a bit of a smaller lineup last year as well, with even a four-guard scheme at times. While Clemson was able to absolutely crash the boards on Virginia, against most teams, we have not really suffered from the loss of the size and effort. Assane Sene plays great defense - when he got injured, the thinking was that Akil Mitchell would come in and, while we'd lose a little bit of the defensive starpower under the basket, we'd make up for it with a little more offensive force. That hasn't really been the case. There have been few times since the injury that I've really sat there thinking, "We really needed Sene for that one." With two 7-0 guys for Wake, this might be one of those times.
6.) What's your prediction in this one? How does it play out? What's your final score?
Perhaps unfortunately for Wake, I consider this a must-win for the Hoos, who are still looking to lock up their NCAA Tournament hopes by going 10-6 in the conference, which would require winning all the games that Virginia "should" win. I think Virginia's slow play bored the Deacs to sleep, and the Hoos walk away with a reassuring win before heading to Chapel Hill. Virginia 69, Wake 54, and everyone will start claiming that Zeglinski's "baaaaack."