This Virginia team is for real. They play a completely different style of basketball than Syracuse and are the number one defensive team in the entire country. The senior leadership of Joe Harris combined with the exciting youth of sophomore Malcolm Brogdon has propelled the WaHoos to an 11-1 start in conference play. That only loss is a four point loss at Duke on January 13th.
Virginia started the season off with that crushing 3 point defeat at home to VCU on a buzzer beater as part of ESPN’s tip-off marathon. Then they suffered another tough loss at home to Wisconsin in a game where neither team scored 50 with a final of 48-38. The following game they lost to Wisconsin-Green Bay and it seemed like it could be a tough year for the Cavaliers, but once ACC play began, this team turned it on.
Malcolm Brogdon has been shooting lights out as he averages a team-high 12.2 points but more importantly has been handling the basketball extremely well and he also averages 5.7 rebounds per game. Combine his shooting with the inside and outside play from senior Joe Harris and you have a tough duo to guard. But as good as these guys play on offense, they are even more impressive on defense as they allow only 55 points per game. A lot of that comes because they really work the shot clock well on offense but you can’t take anything away from the way this team plays defense.
Harris is second on the team with 11.6 points per game and he is the definition of consistency and he is one of the best leaders of any team in all of college basketball. He has scored at least nine points in all but five games this season. This has been true of Harris throughout his four years in Charlottesville as he has averaged double-digits every year and shot above 40 percent. He is shooting a career high 43.4 points from three and 47 percent overall from the floor. A worry this season for Harris is his free throw shooting, which is significantly down. Last season he shot 74 percent from the line, but this season that number is down to 65.
Sophomore guard Justin Anderson has been a spark at times for Virginia but in many cases has struggled to score. He still is a very reliable shooter for Virginia if its inside the arc. His biggest strength is the way he moves without the ball and like the rest of the WaHoos, he plays very strong defense.
Senior Akil Mitchell has continued his strong presence in the paint for the Cavaliers that he has shown throughout his career in orange and blue. He hasn’t been nearly as dominate on the score sheet as his points are down from 13 per game a year ago to seven this year. He still shoots 52 percent from the floor and draws a lot of fouls, but he has really struggled from the free throw line, shooting just 43.2. Mitchell combined with Anthony Gill’s 60 percent shooting from the floor has been a good base in the front court to compliment the talented backcourt.
Off the bench, there have been some exciting moments from freshman guard London Perrantes. He doesn’t score much, but when he does it usually comes at a big time for his Cavalier team. He is averaging 30 strong minutes of play during the team’s eight game win streak and look for those minutes to continue. He could play a crucial role in a possible great tournament run for Virginia.
A look ahead at the upcoming schedule for Virginia has everyone starring straight at that March first meeting with Syracuse at home in the John Paul Jones Arena. That has the possibility of being a matchup of the top two teams in conference and a Virginia win could put them on top in the ACC heading into Greensboro. Though that is still a long way away, Virginia is definitely a team to be fearful of.