The Roundtable — debating the hottest topics around Virginia Sports


Virginia sophomore guard Kyle Guy struggled mightily along with the rest of the Cavaliers in trying to solve Virginia Tech's defense on Saturday.

Emma Klein | Cavalier Daily

What went wrong for Virginia men’s basketball against Virginia Tech?

Jake Blank, Sports Editor:

Pretty much everything that could go wrong except for a major injury *knocks on wood* went wrong against the Hokies, and Virginia still was a missed free throw by a 94 percent free throw shooter away from winning. Sophomore guard Ty Jerome’s sprained thumb may also have hampered his shooting — he went one for 10 from beyond the arc — and Virginia will need to be more aggressive driving to the basket going forward. 

Alec Dougherty, Sports Editor

I have to credit Virginia Tech for making life incredibly hard on the offensive end for the Cavaliers. The Hokies took away driving lanes by plugging the paint, forcing the Cavalier guards to do most of their work on the perimeter. When Virginia did push the ball inside to senior forward Isaiah Wilkins or redshirt freshman guard De’Andre Hunter, the Hokies would often double team them on the post — a staple of Virginia Coach Tony Bennett’s pack-line defense. The Hokies made every Cavalier player uncomfortable and hesitant, forcing them to take some ill-advised shots that did not fall.

Zach Zamoff, Senior Associate Editor:

I think one thing we forget about this game was the pressure on Virginia to deliver. A No. 1 ranking was at stake, a position the Cavaliers have not held since 1982 — even though Virginia ended up ranked No. 1 anyway. The pressure made it difficult for Virginia’s offense to come to life after a horrendous start. A lack of defensive rhythm, driven by stellar ball movement from the Hokies, made it difficult for the Cavaliers to establish their offense. This was perpetuated by poor shot selection, not enough effort to attack the paint and uncharacteristic mistakes from veterans — the two missed free throws by senior guard Devon Hall were huge.

Emma D’Arpino, Senior Associate Editor:

Offensive troubles for Virginia played a huge role in its loss to the Hokies. The Cavaliers displayed a major inability to find any success driving to the basket against Virginia Tech, which forced Virginia to take a lot of outside shots. That became especially problematic when normally solid three-point shooters, sophomore guards Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome, went 3-14 and 1-10 from behind the arc, respectively. Plus, a few mental errors, defensive breakdowns and missed free throws really made it difficult for Virginia to have a real shot at taking that win.  

What coaching changes should Tony Bennett make in order for the Cavaliers to have success in the NCAA Tournament?

JB: Compared to previous failures, I think that having a more versatile offensive skill set is essential. This team has the talent to score in different ways — although, as they showed against Virginia Tech, the Cavaliers are often hesitant to change when something isn’t working. One thing that I would change from this season is lowering Kyle Guy’s minutes slightly. The sophomore guard looked tired as he slumped against Virginia Tech Saturday, and his shooting touch will be required for success in March.

AD: Get Isaiah Wilkins more comfortable in the post. When he gets the ball down low, he often has a good look as long as he isn’t guarded by a taller big. But, he rarely decides to push and draw contact and has been very unlucky with some good shots not falling. Try to give him inside touches on most possessions and encourage him to push the ball and draw fouls. Once opponents begin to respect the inside post on defense, the Cavaliers will be able to move the ball inside and out to find the right shot with more ease.

ZZ: The Cavaliers’ poor offensive performance in the game Saturday against Virginia Tech exposed the flaws in Tony Bennett’s style, and especially why it has been unsuccessful in March. Losses in the tournament the past two years — against Florida and Syracuse — did not come from defensive failures, but rather from Virginia’s difficulty to stop runs without offensive firepower. In particular, the Cavaliers’ pace of play must become more flexible when they get down — they need to speed up play to counter momentum. Also, Bennett should implement more on-ball screens to spread out the defense if the offense becomes stagnant.

ED: I would consider Virginia reaching the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight over the past four seasons successful, so I definitely think they’ve already had success in the NCAA Tournament. I also think Bennett’s system will continue to make runs in the Tournament — especially this year. However, I do agree that Virginia needs to adapt its pace sometimes and realize that urgency doesn’t have to mean chaos. In past tournaments, the Cavaliers have been hesitant to stray from their typical slower play, but there comes a time when you simply can’t afford to continue to use most of the shot clock. So, I would like to see Bennett prepare his team to make that stylistic adjustment in the tournament this year. 

Who is the unsung hero of the Virginia men’s basketball team this year?

JB: The easy answer is De’Andre Hunter, but if the team is to stay in its No. 1 ranking, one of the ball-handlers off the bench — freshman guard Marco Anthony and graduate transfer guard Nigel Johnson — will have to become an unsung hero for the Cavaliers. Devon Hall, Ty Jerome, and Kyle Guy are asked to do a ton for the Cavaliers, and having somebody who can spell them effectively and provide a different look will be crucial for Virginia.

AD: Devon Hall is often slept on with all the attention Kyle Guy gets, but Virginia would not be where it is today without Hall. Against Virginia Tech, the Cavaliers only began to look like themselves on defense when Hall was checked into the game. The senior is incredibly versatile and helps the team in a variety of ways — even when he isn’t scoring in double figures, which he usually is now. He was a quiet but solid contributor on Bennett’s last few teams, but he is going out as a stud in his final year at Virginia. 

ZZ: De’Andre Hunter. Every time Hunter comes into the game, he provides a unique combination of scoring, athleticism, work ethic and lockdown defense that is unrivalled. Although Hunter is starting to win some deserved praise, he still is given far less attention than leading scorers like Kyle Guy and Devon Hall. Hunter’s ability to make outstanding 1-on-1 plays gives the Cavaliers a run-stopper they haven’t had since Malcolm Brogdon — his shot in the Duke game ended the Blue Devils’ momentum.

ED: I think this year’s squad is kind of a team of unsung heroes. As Bennett said after the first Virginia Tech game, “It’s different guys at different times.” This kind of balance on a team makes it so that a lot of Virginia’s guys are somewhat neglected by the media and college basketball world. But if I had to say if there’s one player that is especially flying under the radar, I would say it’s De’Andre Hunter. He has done some spectacular stuff this season and deserves a ton of recognition. 

What spring sport are you most excited about?

JB: Baseball. Losing junior outfielder Cam Simmons for the season is a blow, but Coach Brian O’Connor always fields a competitive team, and seeing the new and improved Davenport Field is reason enough to tune in.

AD: Virginia men’s lacrosse is about as exciting as it gets. Head coach Lars Tiffany’s coaching philosophy is the antithesis of that of Tony Bennett — run the field and score fast and often. Tiffany has a host of weapons to work with on the offensive end, but in Saturday’s thrilling win over Loyola, the defense stepped up and made multiple huge stops to help the offense get back into the game. If the defense can continue to do just enough to hold opponents every week, the Cavaliers can find many wins in another brutal schedule.

ZZ: Men’s lacrosse. This young team is electric. Saturday’s double overtime win against Loyola is a testament to this team’s potential to excite. Virginia’s offensive firepower is ridiculous, and gives the Cavaliers a chance to win against any team in the nation. Freshman attacker Ian Laviano was especially impressive on Saturday, scoring five goals. What Virginia’s No. 1 basketball team lacks in liveliness, Virginia’s lacrosse team delivers.

ED: I think that men’s tennis will be interesting to follow. It’s hard to know what to expect from this young team, and it will be exciting to see how this team is able to achieve the usual Virginia success with a new coach and a young roster.

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