Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
STS got together this week with Tim Mulholland of UVA's SBNation site Streaking the Lawn. Tim and I have known each other since we were born and grew up playing basketball together. He went to UVA with my brother, so this is a bragging rights game for me. I appreciate him taking the time to answer our questions.
STS: UVA has been playing some very good basketball, with the exception of any game against a CAA opponent. How do you explain UVA's 0-3 record against the CAA and undefeated record against everyone else?
Streaking the Lawn: I would love to hear someone provide a reasonable explanation for this. We are 1-0 in the ACC, 1-0 against the SEC, 1-0 against the Big Ten, 0-3 against the CAA and 8-0 against everyone else. Seriously?
The first two losses, to George Mason and Delaware in the first and third games of the season were forgivable. We were in a situation where we didn't know who was going to be our point guard. Presumptive starter, senior Jontel Evans, was out with a foot injury and sophomore Malcolm Brogdon, a reliable PG backup was redshirting because of an injury. That left us with true freshmen Teven Jones and Taylor Barnette and senior walk-on Doug Browman. And that's without even mentioning the fact that no one knew for sure where the scoring was coming from with Mike Scott gone. So it came as no surprise that we struggled a bit at the beginning of the season.
But the loss to Old Dominion is baffling. Maybe the eight game winning streak (including windows over Wisconsin and Tennessee) got into their heads. Or maybe the Monarchs were just tired of losing. I don't know. But that loss was about as unacceptable as they get. I'm just glad it was a "neutral" court game and not at home. Have to find a silver lining for Selection Sunday, right?
STS: Joe Harris seems to be carrying this team much the same way Mike Scott carried them last year. Can you describe what he means to this team? Clemson has done a good job this year taking away #1 scoring options. Would that be detrimental to UVA's chances?
Streaking the Lawn: Joe Harris is the steady hand on the team. He rarely does anything all that flashy (unless you consider shooting 47% from three to be flashy, which I suppose would be legitimate). But he's steady. His 15.3 points per game leads the team, but what I think is more impressive is that he has had only two games this season where he didn't reach double-digits: Seattle (7) and Mississippi Valley State (3). Both of those games were blowouts (40 and 28 point wins, respectively) where he played significantly less than the average number of minutes. He had 22 points in a win against Wisconsin and you certainly can't blame him for the losses to GMU (19 points), Delaware (20 points) and ODU (18 points). Steady. Reliable.
Oh, and I think about half of the UVA bloggers/reporters have a man-crush on him.
STS: Justin Anderson was the headliner in UVA's 2012 recruiting class. How is he coming along? What about the other guys in that class?
Streaking the Lawn: Anderson has certainly struggled adjusting to the college game or to Coach Bennett's pack-line defense or maybe both. He's averaging 5.4 points per game while getting about 20 minutes per game. His talent is very obvious at times on the court, even when he doesn't quite finish (he's had a few monster dunks that he... er... bricked) and then other times he seems to disappear from the game altogether. He's had four or fewer points in six of the fourteen games. Sometimes that's due to the minutes he's getting (or rather not getting), other times its because he was just ineffective when he was on the court.
Like I said, his talent is very obvious and he's possibly the most emotional player on the floor, consistently trying to rile up the crowd. While his output may not have been what I was hoping for as of yet, I've still got high hopes for the rest of his time in Charlottesville.
STS: I know this game is at Littlejohn, but I want to know how the fans are taking to this UVA team. With one of the nicer basketball arenas in the country, it has seemed as though the atmosphere at JPJ Arena lacks the same energy as U-Hall. After reaching the NCAA tournament last year, are fans starting to bring the energy to JPJ?
Streaking the Lawn: You're not wrong about the atmosphere. University Hall could get loud even if the crowd wasn't very big. JPJ on the other hand can be kind of... cavernous... when there aren't enough people there (as has been the case for most games this season). But when it is full and there's a big game, it can be deafening. Anyone who was in there when Singletary beat Duke with that last minute falling backwards shot in 2007 can attest to how deafening it can be. As with most situations in college sports, winning some more games will make it better. The atmosphere for the UNC game was pretty good and I have to think that with that win under our belt, the next few home games will be similar.
STS: In a battle of two teams that prefer to play at a snail's pace, do you think the first to 50 pulls the W?
Streaking the Lawn: That's a fair guess. Both teams are holding opponents to under 50 points when they win (49 ppg allowed by Clemson in wins, 47 ppg allowed by Virginia in wins). In losses, both teams are scoring less than 60 points (55 ppg by Clemson in losses, 58 ppg by Virginia in losses).
I'm going to guess this will be a bit of a slugfest early on with the first team to 50 winning by an eventual score of 66-55. And being the homer that I am, I have to predict that it'll be Virginia that comes out on top.