UVA Looks To Bounce Back Against West Virginia
Virginia (4-1) will look to bounce back from their first loss of the season as they face the West Virginia Mountaineers (2-2) on Wednesday in the consolation game of the Fort Myers Tp-Off. Game time is 6:00 PM Eastern, televised on FS1.
Both teams lost in the first round of the four-team event. Virginia fell to Wisconsin 65-41, while the Mountaineers lost 70-58 against SMU.
About West Virginia
WVU had a turbulent offseason in which longtime head coach Bob Huggins was forced out after being arrested for drunk driving in June. He was replaced by assistant Josh Eilert, now interim head coach. That led to some late transfer activity, and a bit of a patchwork roster this season.
It’s a shorthanded team right now. WVU only had seven available scholarship players on Monday. They made several big portal additions. But three of those are currently missing. Former Georgetown forward Akok Akok was injured in the preseason. Guard Kerr Kriisa is suspended for the first nine games for receiving impermissible benefits at Arizona. And Montana State transfer RaeQuan Battle just had his waiver appeal denied on Tuesday.
The Mountaineers enter with a record of 2-2. Their wins came against Missouri State and Jacksonville State. They were upset by Monmouth along with Monday’s loss to SMU.
West Virginia’s Personnel
The strength of the Mountaineers is up front. They’re led by former Syracuse big man Jesse Edwards (15.3 PPG). The top shot blocker in the ACC last season, Edwards also averaged better than 10 rebounds. He’s joined by Iona transfer Quinn Slazinski (16.3 PPG), who began his career at Louisville. The 6’9” stretch forward is off to a good start, hitting 44% from deep.
They have a shortage of guards, which leads to unusually big lineups. Kobe Johnson (11.0 PPG), a 6’3” junior, has emerged as an important player for them this season. 6’7” sophomore Josiah Harris (8.5 PPG) likes to shoot the three, but hasn’t done it well so far. And 6’6” Israeli freshman Ofri Naveh (4.3 PPG) has started the last two games.
Junior guard Seth Wilson (7.5 PPG) plays starter minutes off the bench. He’s knocked down 41% from behind the arc. Forward Pat Suemnick (2.3 PPG) gets some time as well. That was all they had on Monday. Lightly used freshman Jeremiah Bembry sat out with an injury.
Virginia has a rebounding problem. They were dominated on the glass by Wisconsin on Monday. The Badgers held a 48-21 advantage in total rebounds, while grabbing an absurd 20 offensive boards. It’s not a one-off happening for the Wahoos either. Florida kicked their butt in the rebounding column too.
West Virginia’s size presents a challenge. Jesse Edwards is a handful on his own. He’s one of the best rebounders in the country. UVA freshman Blake Buchanan will presumably draw that assignment to start, but it’ll take a team effort. As I mentioned, the Mountaineers use a big lineup out of necessity. They’ll have a size advantage all over the floor. Limiting their second chance opportunities will definitely be a key to the game.
Reece Beekman needs some help. The UVA point guard scored or assisted on 13 of the team’s 15 made field goals on Monday. Wisconsin did a great job of disrupting UVA’s offensive sets. It forced the Wahoos to make individual plays. And they didn’t make nearly enough of them. The biggest determining factor of how good UVA can be is whether a second player emerges who can be relied on to create offense on his own.
Andrew Rohde is probably the best candidate. He hasn’t been that assertive yet. In order to get more volume from Isaac McKneely, he’ll need to take matters into his own hands at times. And Ryan Dunn has potential as a creator situationally too. The best solution might be to get a little from all the above. For this year’s Hoos to contend for the ACC title much less be nationally relevant, everybody can’t just be a beneficiary of Reece
(Featured Image Credit: Josie Drumheller/UVA Athletics)