What to expect: #7 UVA and the Clash of the Commonwealth, part 2

There will be no shortage of motivation on Saturday for either team. For UVA, it’s revenge. For VCU, it’s continuing to improve and regaining momentum after a less than desirable start.

  • What: Virginia (8-0, 0-0) at VCU (5-2, 0-0)
  • Where: Stuart C. Siegel Center
  • When: Saturday, December 6th at 2:00PM
  • Watch: ESPNU
  • Listen: Rams Radio

VCU will host #7 Virginia Saturday afternoon in the Stuart C. Siegel Center for a grind-it-out rematch of last season’s 59-56 VCU victory in Charlottesville.

The Rundown

Beautiful is most definitely not a word that would be used to describe last season’s VCU-UVA matchup in John Paul Jones Arena. VCU fouled 27 times, the Rams went 6-of-15 from the charity stripe, and UVA grabbed 12 offensive rebounds.

After 37 minutes, the Rams were lucky to trail 55-49. Then something clicked. Juvonte Reddic left-hand jammed a put-back dunk. Jordan Burgess channeled his brother “Big Shot Brad” and drained a corner 3-pointer. Treveon Graham stole the ball and took it coast to coast. And of course, the shot:

There will be no shortage of motivation on Saturday for either team. For UVA, it’s revenge. For VCU, it’s continuing to improve and regaining momentum after a less than desirable start. For both teams, it’s Commonwealth bragging rights for an indefinite period of time until these two teams decide to play each other again–and that stuff matters for players and fans alike.

Saturday, one of the best teams in the country visits the Stuart C. Siegel Center where VCU has sold out 52 consecutive games, has won 22 straight games, and is a perfect 3-0 against ranked opponents with an 18.6 PPG margin of victory (#17 Oklahoma, #20 Butler, #10 St. Louis).

The Team

Patient Offense

Some would go as far as to call it boring. UVA ranks 348th in adjusted tempo, and their average length of offensive possession is 20.1 seconds. An apt comparison would be Peyton Manning’s no-huddle offense when he sits on the line and calls audibles while frustrated defenders wait. Lapses in focus on defense will almost certainly be punished.

Malcolm Brogdon and London Perrantes are mature ball handlers who are capable of finding Justin Anderson (17-30 3PFG) and Marial Shayok (6-15 3PFG) behind the 3-point line and Darion Atkins and Mike Tobey in the post. The passing, spacing, and movement are precise and punishing to mistake-prone defenses.

Virginia grinds it out, but they are scary because they are also great in transition off of turnovers. The Rams need to protect the basketball, end defensive possessions with rebounds, and force turnovers if they hope to win a game that promises to be another grinder in the 50s.

Pack Line Defense

The Pack Line Defense was developed by Coach Bennett’s dad Dick Bennett at Green Bay. In the system, one defender pressures the ball while the other four defenders sag behind the 3-point line. This makes dribble penetration, feeding the post, and basically anything inside the 3-point line near impossible. Designed for “less-talented” teams, the Cavaliers have mastered it because of their size and their ability to quickly close out on 3-point shooters.

UVA ranks 3rd nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, and teams are shooting just 33.1% from 2-point range and 27.9% from 3-point range against the Cavaliers.

There’s a reason Treveon Graham’s winning shot in a tied game was a contested NBA-range 3-pointer. Nothing comes easy against UVA. The key to a VCU victory will be keeping the game in transition as much as possible and not wasting possessions in the half-court.

The clash of styles will be dramatic, and dictating tempo and style will be extremely important. When HAVOC! happens, it’s tough to beat the Rams, but HAVOC! needs to happen.

The Star: #1 Justin Anderson

15.1 PPG (26-49 2PFG, 17-30 3PFG), 4.5 RPG, 1.8 APG

Anderson is the reigning ACC 6th-Man of the Year, and he’s already on the short list for ACC Player of the Year. He’s a 6-foot-6 guard who is really effective driving the lane, and he’s been incredible from 3-point range this season including a 5-of-5 performance against Tennessee State. He injured his left ankle against Maryland on Wednesday. He did not re-enter the game.


#32 London Perrantes (PG, Sophomore) • Perrantes has matured since last season. He has struggled to score this season, but he’s been very effective at running the offense.

#15 Malcolm Brogdon (G, Junior) • Brogdon was the main PG last season but the maturation of Perrantes has given him more opportunities to play off of the ball. The combination of the two in the backcourt will give UVA a boost against HAVOC!.

#13 Anthony Gill (F, Junior) • Gill is UVA’s second leading scorer at 12.4 PPG and second leading rebounder at 6.4 rebounds per game. He’s physical and efficient (.648 shooting).

#5 Darion Atkins (C, Senior) • Atkins was very effective on the offensive glass against VCU last season, and he’s a huge physical presence on defense in the paint.

#10 Mike Tobey (C, Junior) • He scored five points, grabbed nine rebounds, and blocked two shots in only 11 minutes of action last season. Why Bennett limited his minutes is still a mystery because he may have changed the outcome of the game.

#4 Marial Shayok (G, Freshman) • With Evan Nolte struggling in the wake of his offseason arrest (2-17 3PFG), Shayok has become an important 3-point shooter for the Cavaliers (6-15 3PFG).

The Prediction

KenPom picks UVA to win 63-61 with a 61% chance of victory. UVA either dominates an unfocused VCU, or the Rams scrap out another 3-point victory on the back of Treveon Graham.


Location: Charlottesville, VA
Enrollment: ~21,000
Conference: ACC
All time series: UVA leads 10-2.
Last meeting: VCU 59-56. 11/12/13.

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Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams loves music, basketball (follow @rvaramnews!), family, learning, and barbecue sauce.

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