BlueGoldNews.com \ Kevin Kinder

SCOUT-ing: West Virginia Takes on Virginia in Battle of Schemes and Styles

A battle of pace will again unfold when West Virginia and Virginia meet on the basketball court on Saturday in Charlottesville, Va.

SCOUTING THE CAVALIERS

Sixth-ranked UVA relies on its pace of play, offensive efficiency and defensive prowess to wear down foes. Like a power rushing attack in football, there’s something wearying and grinding about a foe that comes down, passes the ball for 25 seconds, gets a great shot and scores, then stifles an attempt at a response. Over and over this gets repeated until the Cavs simply wear out their opponents. Over the past five seasons, Virginia has finished worse than second in points per game allowed just once – and that low mark was fifth. This year, it’s another national best mark, as they are yielding just 44.1 points per outing.

Given those facts, raw numbers don’t tell the story for Virginia. Guard London Perrantes (6-2, 195 lbs.) leads the team with 10.6 points per game, but that’s probably equivalent to averaging 16 or 17 for teams that shoot more than once per millennium. He’s highly efficient, and has just ten turnovers against 28 assists while seeing the ball on almost every possession. Darius Thompson (6-4, 195 lbs.) and Devon Hall (6-5, 205 lbs.) are bigger bodies in the backcourt with Perrantes, and team up to provide 14 points and sticky defense.

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The front court features forward Isaiah Wilkins (6-7, 225 lbs.) who leads the starting bigs with 6.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, and New Zealand native Jack Salt (6-11, 245 lbs.), who chips in with 4,7 and 3.9, respectively.

Making the Wahoos even tougher is a bench that near equals the starring five in productivity. Guard Marial Shayok (6-5, 195 lbs.) and Kyle Guy (6-3, 165 lbs.) come off the pine to contribute 17 points per game, while forward Jarred Reuter (6-7, 245 lbs.) and Mamadi Diakite (6-9, 215 lbs.) add 13 points and 8.5 rebounds to the Cav totals. This is one team that can go toe-to-toe with WVU in bench scoring, defense and rebounding.

Offensively, while Perrantes gets a lot of attention, there aren't any players among the top nine who can be ignored. All will sneak in and score if left alone, which makes them very difficult to defend.

GAME OUTLOOK

West Virginia averages 94.7 points per game, while Virginia tallies 71.4. Old school stats, those, which would lead to the conclusion that the higher-scoring Mountaineers have an advantage heading into the match-up.

WVU (5-1) vs. Virginia (7-0) Sat Dec 3 2:00 PM EST
John Paul Jones Arena Charlottesville, Va. Series: UVA 9-8
RPI: WVU - 122 / UVA - 12 TV: ESPNU Sirius / XM: 145 / 193

Unfortunately for WVU, those two simple numbers don't tell the whole story. West Virginia plays at one of the highest paces in the nation, while Virginia's deliberate attack is the slowest. The Mountaineers average 80.6 possessions (sixth nationally) while the Cavaliers check in at #351 with 61.7. That sets up a huge clash of styles, just as it did a year ago.

In that game, WVU exerted its will in the first half, forcing the Cavaliers into more turnovers than they typically commit in an entire game while building a six point lead. The second half was an entire reversal, as UVA protected the ball against West Virginia's pressure and exhibited great defensive chops and controlled the pace of play en route to a 16-point win.

That imposition of will is the key factor which outweighs all others in this game. Which squad can force the other to play at its pace, and which can forge the better defensive performance? For UVA, it's the pack line defense that pressures the ball and encourages drives into waiting defenders, and of course for WVU it's the pressure game.

Those needing a stat to watch should look at offensive efficiency, which measures points per possession. The two teams are neck-and-neck here, with WVU eighth nationally at 1.174 points per possession leading Virginia's 1.158 (ninth). Each maximizes what it does with the ball, so again, it's defensive influence on this that will tell the tale. If either team can get the other's number down a tenth or so, that could be the path to victory.

PRESS POINTS

Virginia has won 24 consecutive games at home, including Wednesday nights come from behind win over Ohio State. That game bore a striking resemblance to last year’s WVU – UVA game, as the Cavs rallied from a large first half deficit to win.

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West Virginia’s loss to Temple gave the Mountaineers an RPI ding, even though the Owls are currently 16th in that metric, This game is the only remaining non-conference outing where WVU faces a foe higher than 115th.

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WVU leads the country in turnover margin (16.2), turnovers forced (27.33) and steals (13.7). If it can record half of those totals against Virginia, it might still be in good shape in this game.

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UVA has recorded runs of 11-0 or greater in six of its seven games this year, including three of 20-0 or larger. When juxtaposed with the low point totals they hold their opponents to, these runs can be devastating. West Virginia must be patient when the Hoos score a couple of consecutive buckets and work hard to respond immediately.


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