(Image – Kyle Terada – USA Today
After a satisfying opening contest, the ‘Hoos will tip off tomorrow at 11:30 am on ESPN (!!!) against a talented San Francisco squad. Having already played games on Wednesday and Thursday, the Dons will likely be fatigued, but they’ve got a more talented roster than the Towson team UVA handily beat on Wednesday.
How they’ve done so far
On Wednesday, San Francisco lost a bad one to UMass Lowell, 76-68. In that contest, the Dons struggled mightily from deep, shooting 5-26 from three. Nonetheless, shooting guard Khalil Shabazz went off for 31 points, finishing the contest 10-20 from the field. Outside of his performance, only point guard Jamaree Bouyea reached double figures with 15.
Thursday yielded a better result for the Dons as they beat Towson 79-68. While Shabazz only scored five and struggled from the field, Bouyea and Dzmitry Ryuny scored 20 and 18 points, respectively. They also struggled to guard Zane Martin and gave up 16 offensive boards.
Breaking San Francisco down
Last year, the Dons posted an offensive rating of 108.3 (68th nationally), but have lost leading scorer Charles Minlend, starting center Jimbo Lull, and wing Jordan Ratinho to graduation. Those three were the building blocks of the offense a year ago, and this team has struggled to make up for their offensive production.
This is another team that is going to be fairly reliant on their backcourt to do the bulk of the work on offense. Shabazz, Bouyea, and two most dangerous players on the team. Bouyea is a poor shooter, but makes up for it with shiftiness and a knack for finishing around the rim. He also is a good distributor and likes to drive and then kick outside to his teammates. Shabazz, at 6’1”, is a better shooter than Bouyea, but has struggled to hit from behind the arc this season (4-16 from deep so far). He’s still good off the dribble and has a nice jump shot incorporated into his game.
Outside of those two guys, Damari Milstead and Ryuny are the next biggest threats on the offensive side of the ball. Milstead is a transfer from Grand Canyon and scored 7 against Umass Lowell and 11 versus Towson. He’s a career 38.4% three-point shooter and has already impressed in his time with the Dons, going 3-4 against Towson. But, Ryuny is the team’s best shooter. At 6’9”, 205 pounds, he’s a deadly shooter and boasts a career 42.9% clip from behind the arc. Against Towson, Ryuny went 6-11 from deep and was the deciding factor in that game. He doesn’t do much else on the offensive side of the ball, but he doesn’t need to alongside the backcourt of Shabazz and Bouyea.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Dons were 91st in the nation last season with a 95.0 defensive rating. But, again, the losses of Minlend and Lull have made life tougher this year. Particularly, Lull, at 7’0”, 252 pounds, was the cornerstone of their defense. That said, Samba Kane, another 7-footer, has filled Lulls shoes well through two games. But, at 220 pounds, he lacks the bulk that made Lull so good. Believe it or not, this could be a time where Jay Huff is able to bully an opponent on the inside using his sheer strength. Additionally, the Dons don’t have any wing defenders capable of guarding Sam Hauser, or, for that matter, Trey Murphy. So, look for those three guys to have another big game.
Virginia will win if: They can contain and stay in front of the San Francisco guards and take advantage of the Dons’ defensive weaknesses in the front court.
San Francisco will win if: They get hot from behind the arc and can penetrate the still-gelling Virginia defense while also preventing Virginia from beating them on the interior and hoping the ‘Hoos cool off from deep.
Score Prediction: Virginia 76 – San Francisco 61
Virginia’s defense displayed some notable issues against Towson and I expect San Francisco to take advantage. But UVA’s offense is too deadly and I think they stay hot from behind the arc and utilize their superior size to take a fairly comfortable win.