We were lucky enough to speak with CW Darney (@cwdarney) of Streaking the Lawn (@STL_UVA) before Oregon and Virginia square off in the Sweet Sixteen tonight.
You can find our answers here.
Guy, Hunter and Jerome have been great this season. What makes this trio so effective?
They play well together, all complimenting each other’s games. Hunter is the most versatile as he has outstanding game in the post/driving the lane, has a great shot from outside, and can pull up for a jumper. Jerome is the straw that stirs the drink as he’s the assist man, but don’t sleep on him as a scorer because he’s an outstanding shooter and can pull up for floaters or deep threes. Guy has had a rough start to the NCAA tournament, including going 0-for-10 from three against Oklahoma, but he’s one of the best shooters in the country and is still converting 44% of his attempts from outside even with the slump. No one player tries to do to much, and they understand the offense...it’s about finding the best shot, not the first one.
Outside of these three, which players routinely make a difference on the outcome of a game for Virginia?
The guy to watch right now is Mamadi Diakite. He’s a third year big man, coming in at a springy 6-9. He averages 7.4 points and four rebounds per game, but over the first weekend of the tournament he scored 31 points on 15-for-18 shooting inside the arc (and one ill-advised three, though he can make them), with 18 rebounds. His play is pivotal in a game against a team like Oregon to both counter the Ducks’ length on offense and provide shot blocking defensively (he averaged 2.1 blocks per game in ACC play).
When the three-point shooting is off, how does the Cavaliers’ offense respond?
They do a great job of working the ball around and getting good looks in the paint. The best example is against Duke (the first meeting). Virginia went 3-for-17 from three, but got 42 points in the paint with Guy, Hunter, Jerome, and Braxton Key all getting into double-digit scoring. Georgia Tech runs a much (much) worse matchup zone than Oregon, and Virginia went 21-for-37 (56%) from two. Unlike last year’s squad, this year’s team has the ability to adjust better when the threes are not falling (but it can also be a problem against long teams, see: FSU in the ACC tournament).
Be honest. how scared were y’all when you were down by six at the half to 16-seed Gardner-Webb?
At the half? Way less scared. Down 14 in the first half? TERRIFIED. There was a moment after the under-12 timeout where you could see the guys more locked in, and I got a little less nervous, but it was just a lot to go through.
What is Virginia’s greatest strength?
The defense is the easy answer, but I’m not going to go with that. This team plays well together, and that’s been the most important thing this season. They don’t rush anything on either end of the court, and never really get rattled (minus maybe the deer-in-headlights look the first 10 minutes against Gardner-Webb). There’s a bunch of old cliches about Virginia and “not being able to come back if behind” and knocks on the pace of play, but the Hoos have shown that they can come back (vs. Duke this year, vs. Syracuse, vs. Louisville, vs. G-W) and will push out in transition if the situation presents.
What is their greatest weakness?
This team does just about everything well (it’s hard to be No. 1 in KenPom without it), but against long teams like Oregon, Virginia can be prone to loose-ball turnovers. In low possession games, that can really hurt. Otherwise, I’d say they don’t get to the line enough.
What were the high-points of the season?
Raining threes on Syracuse (18-for-25) was definitely amazing, getting a come-from-behind road win against North Carolina rocked, beating Louisville twice (including to lock up a share of the ACC regular season title, and both tournament wins. All awesome.
Is there a common thread that connects Virginia’s three losses (outside of the fact that two of them were to Duke)?
A bad three point shooting day from Virginia coupled with a really good day from the opponent. In the first loss to Duke, Virginia hung with Zion but came up short. In the second loss to Duke, it took Duke shooting 62% from three to beat Virginia. Against FSU in the ACC tournament Virginia shot poorly all over the court, and FSU was hot from everywhere (20-for-30 from two).
What will a Virginia win over Oregon look like?
Virginia would shoot well from outside (30%+), control the boards, not turn the ball over (single digits), and Oregon shoots >30% from three.
Yikes, these always make me nervous. I think this has the potential to play out like a typical Virginia game. Close for the first half, then as the defense wears you down the Cavaliers pull away for a 7-8 point win that never really felt that close. Oregon is a tough squad that I have a ton of respect for, so this will be a battle for sure. Virginia 63-55.