Virginia's basketball team is known as being just that - a team. Yet, since star player Justin Anderson suffered a fractured finger against Louisville on February 7th, an injury that is expected to keep him out until at least the end of the regular season, it has become clear just how important Anderson was to UVA's success.
Make no mistake about it - Justin Anderson is a star. He may not be a star in terms of name, but he is in terms of his game. Prior to Anderson's injury, he was shooting 48% from beyond the arc and had an offensive rating of 124.9, which was 42nd nationally. He doesn't turn the ball over, he does not get called for fouls, and he can create his own shot. Given that, it's no surprise that Virginia has struggled on the offensive end since Anderson went out with his injury.
Pre Justin Anderson's injury, UVA had an offensive efficiency of 108.8 points per 100 possession in ACC play. They allowed a mere 86.7 points per 100 possessions. Post Justin Anderson's injury, UVA has had an offensive rating of just 96.8 points per 100 possessions, while allowing 91.2 points per 100 possessions.
Below is a chart of every ACC game Virginia has played this season. In this chart you will find Virginia's offensive efficiency in each game, followed by their opponent's defensive rating across conference games. The reverse is also true as the chart continues to read from left to right. The "Avg." columns represent if Virginia had an above average, average, or below average relative to what their opponent usually allows or scores. For the purposes of this chart, above average is viewed as good on both offense in defense. I.e., if Virginia held an opponent to an offensive rating that was below their opponent's conference average, that was viewed as an "above average" performance. (Note, I divided the Louisville game into half, since Anderson was injured in the first half.)
|Pre Injury||Off Eff.||Opp Def Eff.||Avg.||Def Eff||Opp Off Eff.||Avg.|
|Post Injury||Off Eff.||Opp Def Eff.||Avg.||Def Eff||Opp Off Eff.||Avg.|
Prior to Anderson's injury, Virginia had 7 above average offensive performances out of 10 tries. On defense, they had 8 above average performances out of 10 tries. Post injury, however, UVA has had 4 below average offensive performance in 5 attempts, but has had 4 above average defensive performances.
The tldr (too long didn't read) version is below.
|Off Eff.||Opp Def Eff.||Def Eff||Opp Off Eff.|
Virginia is averaging 14 fewer points per 100 possessions since Justin Anderson's injury. That's significant. It is a small sample size (4.5 games), but the average defensive efficiency of the opponents was very similar to teams Virginia played prior to Anderson's injury. Virginia's defensive efficiency has also dropped 4.5 points per 100 possessions, while facing nearly identical teams in terms of offensive efficiency.
It probably comes as no surprise that an offense will get worse when you take away a 48% three point shooter, who has one of the better offensive ratings in the country, but Anderson's injury dramatically changes this team. Yes, they are 4-0 in games he has missed entirely, but they have proven to be vulnerable. They narrowly escaped at North Carolina State, and nearly lost at home against the Demon Deacons. Virginia is team-oriented, but the numbers clearly reflect the individual impact that Justin Anderson has on the team's performance.
All this is to say that Wake Forest has an excellent opportunity on Wednesday night to get a signature victory over the #2 team in the country. When you consider that Virginia may also be without point guard London Perrantes due to a broken nose/mild concussion suffered Sunday night against Florida State, it seems that the stars may finally be aligning for a Demon Deacons team who has come very close to signature victories this season. On Wednesday night around 9 p.m. we'll know if the Deacs finally got one.