Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Taking Another Look At Virginia

Scouting Report / Game Plan / Preview of First Meeting
Season Stats

Virginia Offense 06-07
Four FactorsPercentNat'l Rank
Turnover Rate19.659
Off Reb Rate38.244
Virginia Defense 06-07
Four FactorsPercentNat'l Rank
Turnover Rate19.6279
Off Reb Rate31.587

These are a lot easier the second time around. I'd recommend glancing at my preview of the first meeting, linked above. There's still pertinent info to be found there, plus its interesting to see how UVA's Four Factors have changed from then to now.

What happened last time?

To quote from my recap of the first meeting:

As luck would have it, we couldn't force many turnovers (and UVA didn't inflict many errors on itself), so the only way we could get stops was to rebound...which we didn't. Fifteen or sixteen UVA turnovers--and the extra 5-6 possessions we'd have gotten--could have proven the difference for us. Virginia grabbed 40% of the misses at their end of the court, and that saved the Cavs from having a truly terrible day offensively. An offensive efficiency of 101 is mediocre, but it probably should have been worse considering they shot an adjusted 42.4 percent.

Virginia had a terrible night from the field but managed to avoid the upset by protecting the ball (9 turnovers) and dominating the glass (40.0 OR%, 87.9 DR%). Reynolds and Singletary were relatively quiet, scoring 14 and 11 points respectively, on combined 8-23 shooting.

For NC State, Brandon Costner scored 17 points while shooting 65.4% (eFG); Fells, McCauley, and Grant all shot below 50%. Gavin had 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists but needed 16 FGAs to get his points. The box score is here.

I had mentioned in the preview of that game that our turnover rate would depend more on us than them because UVA's defense doesn't force turnovers. We avoided self-inflicted mistakes and turned the ball over just 10 times. Our turnover rate in the game (15.1%) is one of the lowest we've posted this season.

What's been goin' on with Virginia in the mean time?

When we first saw Virginia, it was so early in the season that we still had more questions than we did answers. On UVA's offense, I wrote:

[T]he real question is whether or not the Cavs can sustain better field goal shooting in 2007. As you can see, they were bricktastic in '06 (so it's a damn good thing they got better at grabbing their misses). They were similarly bad in '05.


We know the Cavs are going to rebound. If they add improved shooting to that, they'll have an excellent offense rather than merely a mediocre one.

So how's that worked out for them? After shooting 46.9% in 2006, the Cavs are shooting 52.7% this year. They've improved their turnover and offensive rebounding rates as well, and the result is a much better offense--they rank 24th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency. It helps that both Singletary and Reynolds have improved their shooting this season.

Whether or not they've found the third scoring option they need is debatable. Mamadi Diane is the only other player averaging 10+ pts/game and the only other player taking an above average proportion of the team's field goal attempts.

Back in December I thought maybe Jason Cain could improve his offense to the point where he became that third option. Hasn't happened, though. His shooting is a bit better than in 2006, but he turns the ball over far too often. He does continue to grab rebounds by the bushel.

When these two teams last met, I wondered, Where've you gone, Laurynas Mikalauskas? (Hey, I wonder these things.) He hadn't played much up to that point and only logged three minutes against the Wolfpack. This after a freshman season that saw him average 23 minutes per game and provide a solid contribution (56.8% shooting) in a small role.

It seems Dave Leitao has rediscovered Mikalauskas--he has started Virginia's last six games after starting none of the previous 11. He's averaging 22.5 min/g in those six starts; over the previous 11 games, he averaged a mere 9.7 min/g.

What else have we learned about this Virginia team?

They're considerably more perimeter-oriented than they have been in past seasons. Thirty-nine percent of their field goal attempts are three-pointers, a proportion that is the 60th-highest in the country. That proportion is up from 32.2% in 2006. Take a look at how the 3FGA/FGA ratios have changed for Virginia's shooters from last season to this one:
            2006   2007

Singletary 35.0 53.2
Reynolds 42.9 38.3
Diane 34.2 46.6
Joseph 53.1 60.0

The Cavaliers are also considerably faster-paced in 2007; their games have about 6-7 more possessions than they did in 2006. When the Cavs met Maryland--another up-tempo team--earlier this January, the result was the fastest conference game of the season: 91 possessions. Nine Cavaliers have played in all of UVA's conference games, and eight of them average 10+ minutes per game.

Predict-O-Meter says: Virginia 84, NC State 78 in a game with 74 possessions. Ken Pomeroy's prediction, which takes home court into account (mine does not), has Virginia winning 82-80, also on 74 possessions. In other words: it's a toss up. Virginia does not play good defense, so we should expect a better offensive showing from the Pack.

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