In his first season at the helm of the Virginia men's basketball team, Tony Bennett has found a way to get players he didn't recruit to buy into his system and, therefore, implement said system rather effectively. The Cavaliers (14-7) are 5-3 in conference play, which is much better than how many observers thought they would fair at the beginning of the season. Virginia was picked in the preseason media poll to finish 11th in the ACC; right now, the Cavaliers sit in a tie for fourth place with Virginia Tech.
Bennett puts a great deal of emphasis on the defensive end of the court, and the somewhat unique pack-line defense he employs has been part of the reason for his team's success this season. We'll go into greater detail later this morning on what exactly constitutes a pack-line defense and what the Terrapins can expect to see from the Cavaliers on Wednesday night.
As for Virginia's offense, sophomore guard Sylven Landesberg (6 feet 6, 207 pounds) once again leads the way, though unlike last year, Landesberg has developed into more than just a scorer. In conference play, Landesberg is averaging 20.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. He is shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from three-point range.
One thing that hasn't changed from last season is Landesberg's willingness to drive into the lane and his ability to draw trips to the free throw line. He is shooting 83.1 percent (103 for 124) from the charity stripe this season. In ACC play, Landesberg is shooting 89.8 percent from the free throw line, which is tops in the conference.
The Cavaliers run a patient offense that relies on ball movement, intricate screens and guards who can finish around the basket. They don't aim to score a whole lot of points -- which is good, because they don't. They expect their defense to be stingy enough to make up the difference.
Sophomore guard Sammy Zeglinski (6 feet, 182 pounds) is averaging 8.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game in conference play. He owns a 1.9 assist-to-turnover ratio and is shooting 33.3 percent. Zeglinski stands as Virginia's primary long-range shot-taker, and he is shooting 36.4 percent from three-point range in ACC play.
"He's got a confidence about him," Bennett said Monday on the ACC coaches' teleconference. "I think he believes he can make a big shot, and he's not afraid to shoot it. He has sort of that toughness and that confidence that he can, you know, put a dagger in as we say. But he's very team-oriented. He'll do whatever you ask of him, and I like his toughness that way."
Freshman guard Jontel Evans (5-11, 185 pounds) fills out the other back-court spot in the starting lineup. Evans might be averaging just 2.1 points per game and shooting just 27.6 percent in conference play, but he is Virginia's top on-the-ball defender, and on a Tony Bennett squad, that carries a lot of weight.
Junior forward Mike Scott (6-8, 239 pounds) and senior forward Jerome Meyinsse (6-9, 233 pounds) start in the front court for the Cavaliers. Scott is averaging 12.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, while shooting 47.2 percent in conference play. Inconsistency has plagued Scott a bit, but when he's playing well, he's a handful to deal with.
As for Meyinsse, he is averaging 6.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 65.6 percent from the field in ACC play. The Cavaliers aren't a big shot-blocking unit, but Meyinsse has been good for one block per game during the conference slate.
The Cavaliers play three guards off the bench, led by junior Mustapha Farrakhan (6-4, 175 pounds), who is averaging 7.6 points and 2.3 rebounds in conference play.
Senior Calvin Baker (6-2, 190 pounds) is seeing more minutes of late. He sat out Virginia's game at Wake Forest two weeks ago because of what Bennett called a "coach's decision." Several reports indicated Baker was disappointed with the playing time he had been receiving. Regardless, he is averaging 2.7 points and 1.0 rebounds per game, while shooting 31.6 percent in conference play.
As a result of Baker logging more minutes, junior guard Jeff Jones (6-4, 190 pounds) has seen his playing time decline. Jones has played a combined 11 minutes in the past three games after logging at least 10 minutes in every game prior to that stretch. In ACC play, Jones is averaging 6.0 points per game while shooting 45.5 percent from the field.
"With Calvin coming back, a little surer ball-handling and experienced guy, I've given Calvin some more minutes," Bennett said. "And with Jeff, he's kind of been on the short end of the minutes. Tried to get him in there and get a look and read the situation and just felt like, you know, I just went with [Farrakhan], not that they both couldn't play, but it's hard because there's not enough minutes to play consistently that many perimeter guys, so I try to make good decisions.
"Again, always look at practice, and Jeff hasn't gotten the opportunity, not so much that when he's been out there he's scewed up or struggled, but I just, I've kind of tried to go with what I feel has given us the best chance at that time regarding match-ups defensively, or even offensively with ball-handling, to help us out."
Junior forward Will Sherrill (6-9, 217 pounds) and sophomore center Assane Sene (7 feet, 234 pounds) serve as Virginia's front-court depth. Sherrill is averaging 2.6 points and 3.4 rebounds, while Sene is averaging 0.3 points and 2.7 rebounds in conference play.
As a team, the Cavaliers are shooting 44.7 percent from the field, 38.8 percent from three-point range and 74.5 percent from the free throw line.
In ACC play, Virginia is averaging 14.0 assists per game, which ranks second in the conference behind only Maryland (16.4 apg). The Cavaliers own a 1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio in conference play, which leads the ACC (Maryland is ranked second).
February 9, 2010; 8:13 AM ET
Categories: Men's basketball
Save & Share: Previous: Virginia alters travel plans in light of expected snowstorm
Next: A closer look at Virginia's pack-line defense
Posted by: Realness1 | February 9, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: petecard | February 9, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Russtinator | February 9, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: petecard | February 9, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: larry31 | February 9, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: larry31 | February 9, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: TerpTicker | February 9, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: chvsr | February 9, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: petecard | February 9, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.