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How will UVA defend Auburn? Spencer Percy rejoins to preview 5 key things before the Final Four

UVA players huddle throughout a apply session for the semifinals of the Final Four NCAA school basketball event, Friday, April 5, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photograph/Charlie Neibergall)

With Virginia basketball in its first Final Four since 1984, I assumed it’d be enjoyable to convey back in one the most knowledgable basketball individuals I know, who doubles as a huge Virginia fan: Spencer Percy. Prior to the Sweet 16, Spencer joined me to assist preview Virginia’s matchup with Oregon. And now we’re grateful to have him back for the Final Four.

(Spencer is the owner of Queen City Hoops, a Charlotte Hornets weblog, previously of the True Hoop Community. He’s also a co-host of the Buzz Beat podcast and a former high school basketball coach. And like I stated, he’s additionally an enormous fan of the ‘Hoos.)

1. First, and be trustworthy, how many occasions did you watched the replay of Kihei Clark’s move to Mamadi Diakite, which has to be certainly one of the more memorable passes in event history?

SP: I watched it 25 occasions at the moment, and about 50 yesterday. The quantity has dropped as the days cross, but watching that replay has dominated far too much of my week. Just kidding: no, it hasn’t.

As sports activities fans, we all have these moments of pure elation that remind us of why we put ourselves by way of these things. That Kihei Clark move to Mamadi Diakite for the miracle buzzer-beating floater was a type of moments. These three seconds will eternally reside in my reminiscence.

BG: Yeah, no joke. I feel with plenty of things we will flip sort of jaded — even with sports. Then a genuinely cool moment like that happens and it may be a reminder: hey, these things are pretty enjoyable.

1a. Secondly, how much did you truly sleep Saturday night time after the win? Wait…did you truly sleep, like at all?

SP: I used to be pretty positive I wouldn’t have the ability to sleep, but dozed off in a sweet state on my sofa sooner or later in the night time. Awakened the subsequent morning and had to examine my telephone to be sure it wasn’t a dream. Wow, so Virginia’s fashion does win in March…who would’ve thought?

BG: Yeah, that enitre notion — “This style can’t win in March!” — was a fallacy. In fact it could work; in truth, it was only a matter of time before this program broke by way of and received to a Final Four. That stated, I’m positive it was irritating for you to continuously have to cope with that narrative.

Enjoying low-possession video games can depart you vulnerable to sure risks in the recreation of basketball; nevertheless, it was asinine to use it as a disqualifier for postseason success.

2. It’s probably considered one of the more apparent storylines for this recreation, however what are your thoughts on the distinction in tempo — Auburn vs. UVA?

SP: It’s severe, at the least offensively. Auburn was top-70 in the nation in common time of possession offensively this season (16.5 seconds), so they prefer to push the pace.

Defensively, though, it’s a unique story — the Tigers pressured their opponents to use a mean of 18.Four seconds per possession, comparable to Virginia, and a top-20 mark in the nation. Auburn possesses a singular mixture of being aggressive defensively (13.3 % steal fee, No. 1 nationally) whereas additionally retaining the ball in entrance, and forcing opponents to operate deep into the shot clock.

Their type of defense (15.7 % block fee, a top-five quantity) ought to’ve set off extra alarms than it did coming into this event. This type of aggressive versatility is what forces the opponent to regulate to you, and we’ve seen that persistently with Bruce Pearl’s group in four games.

In fact, Chuma Okeke was a key ingredient baked into the cake of how Auburn might pull off this distinctive fashion. Okeke’s brutal ACL damage appeared as if it was going to chew the Tigers towards Kentucky, however these dudes play with an actual chip on their shoulder and will not deviate from their system. That’s a credit to Pearl.

What worries me the most about this matchup for Virginia is that Auburn seems to be a gaggle that can play whatever fashion the recreation calls for. Virginia acquired over the hump towards a Purdue workforce that sped the recreation up and really clearly pressured the ‘Hoos out of their comfort zone, however Auburn has multiple horse — Jared Harper and Bryce Brown are a two-headed backcourt monster which are capable of giving any protection nightmares.

BG: It’s arduous not to like Auburn’s fashion of play, proper? The Tigers want to rise up and down, spread the flooring and chuck Three-pointers. Auburn ranks eighth nationally in Three-point try price (49.5 %); the Tigers are considered one of 11 Division I teams with at the least 48 % of their area objective attempts coming from beyond the arc.

Getting into the Final Four, Auburn has 26 games with 10 or more 3-pointers; four of the staff’s 9 losses have come when it failed to hit a minimum of 10 3-balls. Auburn likes to look for triples in transition, too, especially Harper and Brown.

Auburn has 65 factors off transition of their Four NCAA Event games. Virginia has 68 points off transition of their final 20 games pic.twitter.com/PUe7vvvKEi

— Jordan Sperber (@hoopvision68) April 4, 2019

Brown actually is a monster in transition: 1.31 points per possession (70.4 eFG%), in accordance to Synergy Sports. UNC truly did fairly nicely stopping Auburn’s transition 3-point arsenal, which Adrian Atkinson famous on Twitter, however Brown still shook unfastened.

It’s clearly not just those two guys, though. In the win over North Carolina, J’von McCormick (57.3 eFG%) showcased what this staff has in reserve behind Harper.

Three. Any considerations past that? How about pick-and-roll coverages towards Auburn’s capturing?

SP: I anticipate numerous Jack Salt and Mamadi Diakite, arduous hedging on ball-screens involving the dynamic backcourt of Harper and Brown for Auburn. I’m unsure how Jay Huff will get minutes on this recreation until Virginia’s offense turns into anemic for a stretch — totally potential.

There are too many defensive considerations with Huff trying to corral Harper or Brown in the pick-and-roll; Huff’s struggles with ball-screen protection are well-documented. He principally has to defend ball-screens “flat”, opposed to hedging exhausting, as you see frequently from Salt and Diakite.

My guess is Bennett needs to avoid this as much potential. All this stated, Auburn has the firepower and athleticism to rating behind the play once you lure their guards, but you’d somewhat someone aside from Harper or Brown to beat you.

One things for sure: Virginia gained’t play cat and mouse with their defensive scheme — the ‘Hoos are coming after you aggressively with their pick-and-roll defense, so it’ll be fascinating to see what Bruce Pearl has up his sleeve.

BG: This, to me, is certainly one of the two or three most necessary things on this matchup: the success of Virginia’s ball-screen defense towards Auburn.

When Salt and Diakite hedge exhausting, how will Auburn choose to assault? Pearl and the Tigers will have every week to prepare dinner up whatever strategies they need to deploy towards UVA. On a number of events in this yr’s event, we’ve seen teams slip those screens and work to rating 4-on-Three.

Is this something Auburn will attempt to mix into its half-court attack on Saturday? In that case, how will Virginia regulate? They might, as you say with Huff, select to defend those screens more flatly, but that’s dangerous, too, with a particular offensive talent like Harper.

To its credit score, Virginia has seen guys like Harper this season — Coby White, Markell Johnson and Carsen Edwards: speedy shot-makers with deep Three-point vary.

Nonetheless, Harper’s a fearless pick-and-roll scorer (zero.99 factors per possession, 53 eFG%) who can generate scoring from off the dribble; of the 94 3-pointers Harper’s hit this season 59 have come unassisted.

Luckily for Virginia, this sort of pick-and-roll cowl — a type of half-hearted change from Luke Maye — isn’t in the playbook. The bigs will both hedge exhausting and check out to get the ball out of Harper’s palms, or stay flat. In fact, that presents problems, too. You’ll be able to’t let Harper or Auburn’s other guards just dribble into lightly-contested pull-up 3s.

(On the flip aspect when Auburn defends, this type of stuff can’t occur for the Tigers; Virginia punishes teams that self-inflect with errors. Get caught in between coverages or botch a change, and the Cavs will make you pay.)

Four. How a lot of a bummer is it that we’re denied a Hunter-Okeke matchup?

SP: It sucks, for positive, but Virginia fans in all probability aren’t all that bummed out. Personally, I simply really feel for Okeke due to the cash he misplaced in the draft because of this damage. The man was creeping up to probably being a lottery decide, and now’s a pure eye-of-the-beholder gamble in the NBA Draft this summer time coming off an ACL tear. Accidents are the worst.

Okeke’s absence is going to improve the chance that Hunter defends certainly one of Harper or Brown if they see a couple of photographs go down. Tony Bennett has to keep away from another opposing guard having an out-of-body experience — they gained’t survive a Carson Edwards sort of performance twice. The key to this recreation for Virginia defensively could be very simple: decelerate Harper and Brown.

BG: The damage is devastating, for all of the obvious causes. Comparable to Hunter, Okeke was emerging as considered one of the prime 3-and-D prospects (2.5 steals and 1.7 blocks per 40 minutes) of the 2019 draft class; nevertheless, his ascent was more speedy as this season performed out.

Okeke continues to be a large NBA prospect, however the quick alternative value of this damage might be probably tens of millions of dollars over a rookie scale contract. Ban accidents, man.

Specific to this recreation, I couldn’t agree extra with the way it opens up the chessboard for Bennett defensively. Everybody noticed what Okeke did to UNC in the first half of the Candy 16 contest: spot-up 3-pointers, offensive rebounds, paint effectivity — it was a masterpiece. That’s what he’s carried out all season, too.

According to Synergy, Okeke (24 dunks) shot 61.8 % round the rim this season; at 6-foot-Eight, he additionally scored 1.21 factors per possession post-ups (58 FG%). He additionally posted a monster effective capturing price of 59 % on 121 half-court catch-and-shoot makes an attempt this season, per Synergy. This is precisely the defensive task Hunter would’ve drawn.

Without Okeke, although, it frees Hunter up — to some extent. On numerous events this season, UVA has deployed Hunter as its defensive talisman — shifting him around to guard elite perimeter scorers. At occasions, he’s matched up with Coby White, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Chris Lykes, Tyus Battle and Carsen Edwards.

If this recreation gets tight, which I feel it will, don’t be stunned to see Hunter used towards Harper or Brown in leverage situations.

5. How will Bennett matchup with Harper, Brown and Dunbar?

SP: My guess is Kehei Clark on Harper, Ty Jerome on Brown, and Man on Malik Dunbar (45-lb. discrepancy with this matchup). Bennett might also swallow arduous and attempt to cover Man on Anfernee McLemore (non-offensive menace). How Virginia matches up to start this recreation is one thing to pay attention to, especially as Auburn tries to raise the protection.

Something else to control: How aggressive will the ‘Hoos be with tagging the rolling bigs off pick-and-roll from the corners? Auburn has plenty of good secondary spot-up players, like Samir Doughty (1.02 points per possession on spot-ups, 42.6 3P%). Doughty could get some good looks against Virginia’s defensive rotations.

It’d be nice to see Bennett not have to regulate his protection to Auburn early in this recreation, however I’m afraid the Tigers are too gifted on that finish. It’s the Final Four —all arms and schemes on deck.

BG: I like that; Clark seems like a no-brainer on Harper. Say what you will about his measurement, that is certainly one of the things you introduced Clark in for: ball strain.

The Tigers aren’t exactly the Sacramento Kings, but this group needs to play fast and let Harper assault towards a selection flooring. Harper doesn’t flip the ball over all too typically (16.7 % turnover price) — partially because he shoots so much from off the dribble (25 % usage price). Nevertheless, Clark’s ball strain might swing a possession or two in favor of Virginia; considering how ceaselessly Auburn likes to let if fly from deep, that could possibly be vital.

At the least, it might pressure the Tigers to run offense later into the shot clock — extra of a challenge now with out Okeke’s environment friendly offensive output.

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