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​COMEY: Sussing out the greatest weakness for each Virginia starter

<p>Sophomore Devon Hall has improved greatly since last season, but the guard still struggles with inconsistent shooting, with a 39.4 field goal average.</p>

Sophomore Devon Hall has improved greatly since last season, but the guard still struggles with inconsistent shooting, with a 39.4 field goal average.

With the hardest portion of the Virginia men’s basketball season ahead of them, the team will have to put together a string of near-perfect performances to finish the year as a great team rather than just a good one. The Cavaliers have all the pieces to make legitimate runs for the ACC and NCAA titles, but there are a few kinks they’ll have to work out in the next two weeks.

Now is as good a time as ever to take stock of where the team can improve the most, so below I tackle what I believe to be the greatest weakness of each starter.

Isaiah Wilkins

While I’ve been thoroughly impressed with Wilkins’s strides over the last month, he’s still lacking in one key aspect of his game: he can’t get to the free throw line. In his 578 minutes played on the year, he’s only attempted 35 free throws. He has failed to make it to the line even once in more than half of Virginia’s games this year, and that’s as the second biggest guy on his side at almost all times.

I respect the heck out of Wilkins’s commitment to his jumpshot, which has essentially become his bread and butter on offense. But with his size, he needs to be driving to the basket more, looking for lay-ups and fouls. If anything, his jumper should be opening up those opportunities, but he rarely takes advantage. His zero trips to the free throw line in six of the last eight games equates to points left on the table, but if Wilkins can successfully add a dribble attack dimension to his game, he’s poised to be an all-time great for the Cavaliers.

Devon Hall

Despite improvement over last season, Hall’s biggest issue this year has been his inconsistent shooting — so much so that defenses don’t have to worry too much about him. Compared to fellow guards Darius Thompson and Marial Shayok, who both play similar minute totals, Hall holds an edge in both assists and rebounds. But when it comes to shooting and scoring, he’s starting to fall significantly behind.

Hall’s 39.4 field goal percentage is the worst on the team among players that have taken at least 50 shots, significantly below Thompson’s 52.1 percent and Shayok’s 48.7 percent. Hall, who has a reputation as a good three-point shooter, is actually 10 percentage points worse than Shayok behind the arc (32.6 percent to Shayok’s 43.3 percent) and just a hair better than Thompson (31.4 percent). In fact, Hall hasn’t hit a three-pointer in four straight games, and has only averaged 2.5 points in that span.

Anthony Gill

Gill’s biggest weakness, at least recently, has been foul trouble keeping his minutes down — and consequently, his production. Prior to ACC play, Gill was averaging 1.7 fouls per game and 27.7 minutes per game. That included the monumental three game stretch against West Virginia, Villanova and California, where Gill averaged 35.7 minutes and just two fouls. In those three games, Gill put up 20, 22 and 17 points, respectively — three of his seven highest totals on the year.

But for the past month, it’s been a different story. Since fouling out at Wake Forest on Jan. 26, he’s had three subsequent games of three or more fouls, and has not seen 30 minutes of playing time for seven straight games now. Gill, who averaged 15 points a game through that Wake game, has averaged just 9.6 ever since. Miami’s size down the stretch really hurt Virginia Monday on both ends of the floor, with a lot of that having to do with Gill sitting out crucial minutes in the middle of the second half.

Of course, part of the story with Gill’s decreased production has been a rise in minutes for Mike Tobey, who essentially had disappeared during all of winter break. While Tobey has certainly shown promising signs of improvement during ACC play, inconsistent performances like Monday night may sway coach Tony Bennett toward relying more heavily on Gill. But that can only happen if he can keep his foul count down.

London Perrantes

Perrantes was the only Cavalier starter I really struggled to find something wrong with. He is our best shooter, leads the team in assists-to-turnover ratio, plays almost the entire game, works hard on defense and is wildly unselfish. If anything, it’s that unselfishness that is his biggest knock. Perrantes currently sits third in the nation in three-point shooting percentage at 52.5 percent, but despite this, he doesn’t come close to cracking the top 100 in three-pointers attempted.

Three-point attempts are in part a function of what a defense is throwing at you, but I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing Perrantes taking more contested threes. He’s clearly put in the work, and more perimeter shooting from Perrantes would at the very least open up the lanes a bit more for the big men, who recently seem to need all the help they can get. We really can’t go another game with Perrantes not taking a single three, which happened at Duke recently.

Malcolm Brogdon

While it seems too nit-picky to point out a weakness for an ACC Player of the Year frontrunner, if I had to choose something, it’s a lack of offensive help. Picking everyone else’s problems as a major weakness is a cop-out, but the numbers are interesting. Brogdon has shot more than 16 times in a game just four time this season, and the Cavaliers have lost all four of those contests. In Virginia losses, Brogdon averages 16.7 shots a game, but in Virginia wins, he averages just 12.4 shots a game.

There are two things going on with this. First, in some of the earlier losses, Brogdon’s high shot volume was in part a function of Virginia playing at a pace too fast for it’s own good — the Cavaliers averaged more than 65 possessions in the GW loss and first three ACC losses, which include three of Brogdon’s four highest shot volume games. Since the near loss to Wake Forest at the end of January, however, Virginia has slowed down its pace to under 59 possessions a game, including sub-60 possession counts against Duke and Miami. The problem in these most recent losses was simply a lack of other great options. Perrantes combined for a total of one three pointer in the last two losses, while Gill went completely cold in the second half of both games, scoring 4 against Duke and 0 against Miami after the break.

Brogdon has it in him to carry the team, but when the rest of the offense isn’t doing much of anything, it won’t be enough.

Matt Comey is a weekly Sports columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at m.comey@cavalierdaily.com or on Twitter at @matthewcomey.

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