(Image – David Butler – USA Today)
Whew. Following an eighteen day break between games as a result of issues with COVID-19 within the program, UVA basketball is back at 2:00 PM Tuesday afternoon against the William and Mary Tribe. The ‘Hoos will be looking to get back in the win column on Tuesday as they tip off in what will almost be a second-first game of the season.
This William and Mary team has a few skilled players, but both the overall talent level and pure athleticism of this Virginia squad dwarfs that of the Tribe.
What W&M has done so far
In four games so far this season, the Tribe are 2-2 with victories over George Washington and Hampton and losses to both Old Dominion and High Point. The High Point loss — a 71-49 shellacking — from Saturday in particular is not a good sign for their chances Tuesday afternoon.
In those contests, their three-point shooting has been quite irregular. In the games against ODU and Hampton, the Tribe shot a combined 53.6% from deep (22-41). But, in the GW and High Point games, William and Mary combined to shoot 20% (9/45).
Breaking W&M down
Star player Luke Loewe is the Tribe’s saving grace on the offensive side of the ball. He’s a deadly shooter (8-16 on the year from deep), is effective off the dribble, acts as the team’s go-to scorer and distributor, and rarely turns the ball over. At 6’4″, 186 pounds, he’s fairly quick and can use his height to his advantage when driving to the basket. Outside of Loewe’s 18.3 points per contest, 6’1″ guard Yuri Covington is the Tribe’s next option on the offensive end. He’s quick off the bounce and has more bulk to him than Loewe as he utilizes it to bound his way into the paint.
6’7″ Junior Quinn Blair is William and Mary’s stretch four, while the 6’5″ Connor Kochera provides additional shooting on the wing as he’s hit on 64.3% of his long balls so far this season (9-14). Likely rounding out the starting lineup will be 6’9″ shot-blocking junior Mekhel Harvey. Through four games, Harvey is averaging 3.3 blocks per game as his length provides defensive insurance. He’s nothing special offensively, often playing the dunker role for guys like Loewe and Covington.
Offensively, this team tends to live and die by their proficiency from behind the arc. On the defensive side of the ball, the Tribe really lack the athletes to keep up with the Wahoos. They’re not all that quick and can get lost in defensive rotations.
UVA will win if: The team plays as their talent would suggest. This is simple. William and Mary is a bad team. If the Wahoos execute as they should this will get out of hand early.
W&M will win if: Loewe gets going early and Virginia doesn’t have an answer to defend him in the backcourt. They’ll also have to survive in the paint defensively and prevent guys like Jay Huff and Sam Hauser from purely out-talenting them, which is no easy task.
Score prediction: UVA 79 – W&M 59
As long as the ‘Hoos don’t suffer from any significant fatigue or rust following their eighteen day hiatus, this should be a blowout. That said, it’s likely we’ll see this team come out of the gates slow before getting their feet under them as things go. Still, this shouldn’t be a game.