On the surface, Stony Brook doesn’t seem threatening. Their 7-5 record is harmless, and their best win against 152nd ranked (KenPom) North Dakota State isn’t much to hang a hat on. But, this team’s strengths line up well with Virginia, as their rim protection and shooting proficiency could prove troublesome for the ‘Hoos.
Through twelve games, Stony Brook’s most impressive performances have come in a five-point over time loss against Yale, and a four-point loss to Providence. In fact, one of those seven wins came against Farmingdale State, a D-2 team. They’re only matchup against a top seventy team on KenPom came against #22 Creighton, when they lost by seventeen points.
Though the results suggest otherwise, there’s still danger for Virginia as Stony Brook’s offense has the potential to keep them in the game. Their 98.2 offensive rating isn’t pretty, ranked an abysmal 218th in the country via KenPom. That said, they can get hot from deep as the two most used and best players for the Seawolves are two 6’5” guards in Elijah Olaniyi and Andrew Garcia who shoot 42.6% and 44% from three. On 5.1 attempts per game, Olaniyi is a legit scorer, averaging 19.1 points per night. Along with those two, Makale Foreman scores in double figures at 14.2 per game. Foreman isn’t as consistent from three, at 36.6%, but he is taking a whopping 7.8 three point per game. As a team? They take 43.9% of their shots from deep, hitting 36.2% (70th in nation). Safe to say, they’ll get their shots up, and if they get hot, watch out.
Overall, Stony Brook is primarily a perimeter scoring team, as including Olaniyi and Garcia, the top four scorers for the Seawolves are all 6’5” and shorter. They primarily run a four-guard lineup with their only two players taller than 6’5”, the 6’9” Mouhamadou Gueye and the 6’11 Jeff Otchere, rotating off as the center.
That’s where you’d assume Virginia would have the advantage: down low. But, despite their lack of size, Stony Brook’s defense is in fact the 5th best defense against two-point attempts. As in, they only allow 39.4% of the opposing team’s twos in the bucket. Most of that is a result of their high block rate, 32nd in the country at 14.5%. Their two bigs, Gueye and Otchere, block 8.7% and 13.7% of opponents’ shots, good for 49th and 10th in the country. What that commitment to guarding two-pointers results in is a poor three-point shooting defense, 292nd in the country, allowing 36.5% of those to go down.
See what I mean about the Seawolves’ strengths matching up well with Virginia? The Virginia defense loves to force outside shots, in fact 50% of the shots taken against the ‘Hoos are threes, which is the 3rd most nationwide. As we’ve seen for years now, they’re particularly susceptible to teams that get hot. Couple that with the fact that, as we all know, Virginia has been a bad (to put it lightly) three-point shooting team this year, at a repugnant 24.9% (344th out of 353 teams), as they rely heavily on interior scoring.
Am I saying Stony Break should or will win? No, I’m not. Frankly, if Virginia is going to be as good as we all hope they’ll be this year, this should be a 15-point blowout. I’m just making it clear that if Virginia is cold, as they’ve been, and Stony Brook shoots like they do, things could get ugly since the Seawolves matchup well with the Cavs.
Look for Stony Brook to start Gueye and Otchere to line up against Huff and Diakite, or to at least favor that lineup, as the ‘Hoos will likely look to exploit any mismatches down low with post-ups from Huff and Diakite. In addition, I’d expect Caffaro to get some serious run in today’s game as, displayed in the UNC win, he’s the most natural low post, muscle-it-out guy the ‘Hoos have.
Virginia will win if: They establish a post presence early, force Stony Brook to double, and then find shooters on the outside and make a couple. Defensively, they’ll want to be in the grill of Olaniyi and Foreman from the get-go, likely with Morsell and Clark.
Stony Brook will win if: They get hot and stay hot from deep and can keep Virginia out of the paint.
Prediction: UVA 59 – Stony Brook 46
Teams don’t get often hot in JPJ (unless it’s Duke) but I’m expecting a couple of runs from the Seawolves, maybe a nail biter of a first half score, and then for the ‘Hoos to outlast them in the end.