We’ve seen rock fight after rock fight after rock fight so far this season for this Virginia team. But nothing matches up with this upcoming contest against Navy. As we all know, Virginia is the slowest paced team in the nation. Navy? They’re the second slowest team, right behind the Wahoos.
While researching the Navy team, I came upon a quote from Coach Ed DeChellis in an article in the Annapolis based Capital Gazette that mentioned how “We take a lot of pride in our defense. That’s one of the things we can control. We do some different things defensively. We double down on the post, we trap the ball in various spots on the court. To be good defensively you need everyone working together.” The author of the piece, Bill Wagner, goes on to say that “That pack mentality also extends to rebounding, which along with defense and taking care of the basketball have always been the pillars of the Navy program during the nine-year tenure of DeChellis.” Sound familiar? Clearly, there are some striking similarities between the Virginia and Navy programs as both emphasize and utilize similar basic points of play. It’ll be fun to see how these two teams match up.
Up to this point, Navy is yet to beat a team in the top-200 on KenPom, their best win coming against #230 Brown. Currently, they sit at 6-4 with losses to #58 Liberty, #113 George Mason, #203 Lipscomb, and #219 Bryant. They themselves are ranked #260 on KemPom. Obviously, Virginia will be their first test against a Power-5 conference school, and their toughest matchup yet.
Navy runs roughly a nine-man rotation. The Midshipmen are a generally small team, as the tallest player in their rotation stands at 6’8”. In addition, their starting lineup boasts heights of 6’0”, 6’3”, 6’3”, 6’7”, and 6’8”. Hopefully, this means Virginia can rely on their inside presence to take control of this game.
While that would normally indicate rebounding struggles for Navy, they’ve generally been a solid rebounding team. In fact, they’re 18th in the nation in offensive rebounding, bringing in 36.1% of their own misses. Surprisingly, their best offensive rebounder is 6’3” Greg Summers. This means it will be critical for the guards, and specifically the man guarding Summers, to box out as the Navy guards will be crashing the boards hard.
Where Navy’s lack of height does impact them is finishing on the interior. 15.7% of their shots are blocked by their opponents, which is the highest in the country. Given Virginia’s size down low and their 8th best 16.4% block rate on defense, Navy’s inside game ought to be negated.
The Midshipmen are an awfully poor offensive team, 291st in the country in offensive efficiency. They don’t shoot well from three, at 29.4% (293rd), and their lack of size inside has resulted in a similarly low 45.1% (292nd) inside the arc (via KenPom).
That said, Navy does have two scorers in Cam Davis and John Carter. Both are scoring roughly 14 points per contest, albeit on 38.5% and 35.2% shooting from the field. Carter in particular loves to get shots up, shooting 8 three-pointers per game, but at a mere 30% clip. As I previously mentioned, this team doesn’t shoot well from outside. Davis is their only players shooting three-plus attempts per game at a rate higher than 30%. 6’7” big man Luke Loehr does take and average 2.6 attempts each game, shooting 38.5% on those shots. I doubt he’ll get hot, as he’s only taken forty-four total shots in ten games, but with how a couple guys have gotten against Virginia so far, I wouldn’t count him or Davis out.
Defensively, as Dechellis mentioned, they like to pack it in and then double in the post or on ball screens when appropriate. While emphasizing core defensive principles, the Midshipmen are a middle-of-the-pack defensive team, 181st in defensive efficiency on KenPom. Their slow pace misleadingly affects their allowed points per game, similar to Virginia. Their doubling of the post could be influential though, as it will be critical for the Virginia big men to make smart decisions with the ball and give the guards opportunities to attack reckless closeouts.
Frankly though, Navy doesn’t do anything all that well defensively. Their 5.7% block rate is 307th nationwide, when coupled with a 7.7% steal rate (276th) implies they aren’t prone or even decent at creating turnovers nor erasing mistakes. Their opponent effective field goal percentage is 47.5%, 75th in the country, which is impressive given such low block numbers. In addition, they don’t foul, with the 23rd lowest foul rate in the nation.
Bottomline on offense for the ‘Hoos? Try to bully the Midshipmen down low, then when the double comes, make smart passes to look for the resulting backside advantage. I’d expect Bennett to lean on a relatively new offensive set he utilized against South Carolina to get the ball into Diakite’s hands in the post to do just that.
Virginia will win if: They take care of the ball. No, Navy isn’t nearly as steal-happy as South Carolina, but in a game that is bound to be low scoring, every possession will matter even more so the ‘Hoos can’t afford to gift Navy any extra opportunities.
Navy will win if: They can disrupt the flow of Virginia’s offense and force them to take outside shots. In addition, one of their scorers is going to need to get cooking. In a game where possessions are as good as gold, getting one guy cooking could be enough to keep them in this game.
Score Prediction: Virginia 48 – Navy 32
This shouldn’t be a close game. Navy’s offense has struggled all year and those issues should compound themselves against a defense as stifling as Virginia’s. The Wahoos’ superior talent should win out here and get them back in the win column.