This mailbag edition is loaded with recruiting questions. We look at conference tournament seeding, whether the March Madness bubble will work, and which young Hoo is most likely to get wild with his hair. Joe Boxley and Zach Carey, hosts of Hoops on Grounds, join me in tackling those topics and more.
Carey: This is an interesting conundrum. With Traudt, UVA would have its new prototype stretch four who would fit a Hauser-esque role. Ideally, they’ll look for a player in the Akil Mitchell, Mamadi Diakite, and Kadin Shedrick mold who can be an athletic defensive stopper while providing offensive versatility in ball screens. That pairing is going to be the favored frontcourt moving forward as the UVA offense shifts away from the rigid delineations of the mover blocker offense towards a more modern spread offense where they look to involve the frontcourt players on the perimeter more while hoping not to sacrifice the hard hedge.
Hooz: Class of 2022 forward Maliq Brown is a local product from Culpeper, attending the Blue Ridge School. He’s a high level athlete at 6’8, with the tools to be a superb defender, and is developing a nice face-up offensive game. Virginia is involved, but there’s no offer yet. He very much fits into the mold of past UVA forwards like Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins.
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Brown could certainly be a potential future frontcourt mate of current top target Isaac Traudt. Generally speaking, that’s the type of player they’d look to pair with him. But there’s no sign they’ll push for him or any other 2022 recruit in that role until the late Spring cycle is over. They’ll want to see what transfers and 2021 recruits come available after the season first.
Boxley: The easy answer for me is Nunez, because that’s who Tony Bennett wants most. Nunez has that great pace that Bennett really values in a point guard and can shoot like Ty from near half court. We’ve found out the hard way these past two years that we need guards who can shoot at a high level. A close second for me though is Seth Trimble. Trimble’s athleticism and build reminds me a lot of Justin Anderson’s. While he may not currently have a JA level 3-point shot, he has the ball skills of a true point guard.
Boxley: Per Nunez’ father, Lupe, Austin has an unofficial top 4 of Virginia, Texas, Baylor, and Arkansas. Right now the leaders are believed to be Texas and Virginia, with probably a slight edge in Texas’ favor. No timetable has been established, but both Austin and his father are all business when it comes to his recruitment. Austin has said he wants to take visits before committing, and I think he’ll be able to in early summer. I personally would be surprised to see this recruitment drag past the summer.
Hooz: There isn’t an obvious candidate right now. Anyone following could see the offers to Isaac Traudt and Austin Nunez coming. It gets blurry after that. While they’ve Zoomed with a few others, nothing to nearly the extent of the players they’ve offered. They’d probably like to get fully involved with another point guard. There’s been a recent pattern of recruiting two players for each spot early on. Seth Trimble out of Wisconsin would be my best guess. Noah Shelby, who recently included Virginia in his top 10, is another strong possibility.
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I thought it was interesting during this bit of a break between games they focused their Zoom time on established targets, Nunez and Traudt. That’s very telling. I expect even if new offers were to go out soon, those two will continue to be where they spend the majority of their energy.
Carey: Gosh, who knows for sure at this point? Getting this far into this season is encouraging. Of course, numerous games have been postponed and canceled. Nevertheless, I’m confident the tournament will be played and that we’ll have a National Champion in April. How much of an effect COVID-19 will have, I’m not sure as it seems inevitable that cases will arise, it just depends on whether or not entire teams will be booted from the bubble when they do.
Carey: I think Casey is definitely a good option against teams like FSU, but it’s not like Reece didn’t have success getting by guys off the dribble. His biggest issue is that he won’t shoot the ball unless he’s at the rim which teams are now well aware of. If he can develop a consistent jump shot, that will change. Obviously we saw what Kihei can do at his best, but there’s only so much he can do.
As for next year, Jabri Abdur-Rahim’s return and development could be a deciding factor as will the jump Trey Murphy will undoubtedly make this offseason as he grows into a bigger role with a much higher volume of touches and shots. You’re right, they need more playmakers off the dribble. Hopefully the guys already in the program can become that while Bennett may also be looking to bring in a transfer who can provide some of that necessary scoring punch.
Carey: I assume they’ll go off of winning percentage with a potential minimum number of games in case a certain team misses a large chunk of games down the stretch. If teams have the same winning percentage, the head-to-head outcome should be the tiebreaker.
Carey: As of now, it’s a bit difficult to predict but I’ll go with Carson McCorkle. That dude has some serious cabbage right now and has the moxie to do something with it (*cough* man bun *cough*) and pull it off.