A few days ago, Whitey Reid published this piece in which he assigned each of the players grades for their performances thus far this season. I mostly agree with his grades and the reasoning behind them, but I felt the need to dig a little deeper. Let me elaborate.
As all Virginia fans know, the team that has surged to an 8-1 first half of ACC play is vastly different from the one that finished the out of conference slate with a disappointing record of 9-4. For that reason, I thought it would be a good idea to conduct a similar analysis to Whitey's, however one that accounts for the differences in non-conference and conference play. I looked the players' stats both prior to and during ACC play, gave them a grade for each, and then weighed them together to give each player a grade. Obviously, I also took non-statistical factors into account, as we all know the box score never tells the full story.
Let's see how different my report card is from Whitey's...
OOC Stats- 8.62 pts (43%, 33%, 69%), 4.4 reb, 1.77 ast, .92 blk, .46 stl, 1.46 to
ACC Stats- 9.44 pts (42%, 25%, 71%), 2.6 reb, 1.22, ast, .66 blk, .33 stl, 1.78 to
OOC Grade- B
ACC Grade- B+
Justin began the year in the starting lineup and, for the most part, struggle to find any sort of consistency. He showed flashes of good play, but never was really able to string together a bunch of good games. For this reason, among others, Tony benched him. Well, actually that's not completely true. While he technically lost his starting job, it was probably because Bennett saw him as a valuable 6th man. Justin has embraced this role and it has paid off, both for him and the team as a whole. It allowed him to have some good games towards the end of OOC play and to carry momentum into the conference schedule, where he has played consistently well (with the exception of a few cold stretches). However, the main reason I gave him such a high grade for ACC play has been his defense. Earlier in the year, Justin played mediocre to solid defense, with the occasional good outing. In ACC play, his defense has been exceptional. He has consistently disrupted opposing guards and wings. While he has struggled a bit offensively as of late, I expect him to pick it up soon.
Total Grade: B
OOC Stats- 4.15 pts (45%, 0%, 42%), 3.77 reb, .70 ast, .92 blk, .31 stl, .92 to
ACC Stats- 2.11 pts (35%, 0%, 63%), 1.22 reb, .11 ast, .33 blk, .22 stl, .44 to
OOC Play- B
ACC Play- C
Two factors make it difficult to give Darion a fair grade. First, he just does not play all that often. Second, when he does play significant minutes, he tends to look pretty solid. After a great first two games, Atkins disappeared. He would occasionally pop up here and there with a decent performance, but more often than not found him self struggling for playing time. There was a time when I was really high on him and wished Bennett would give him more of a chance. I love his activity, athleticism, and feel. That time, however, seemed to have come and passed, as now I tend to get a bit nervous when he's out on the floor. I am still very high on his potential for this year and his senior season, but I think the scarcity of minutes has affected his comfort level when he actually does step out there.
Total Grade: C+
OOC Stats- 9.46 pts (39%, 36%, 91%), 5.38 reb, 1.85 ast, .23 blk, 1.23 stl, 2.07 to
ACC Stats- 15.22 pts (51%, 48%, 88%) 5.22 reb, 2.66 ast, .22 blk, 1.88 stl, 1.11 to
OOC Play- B+
ACC Play- A+
I have to admit that I didn't really buy Coach Bennett's "rusty" excuse for Malcolm's inconsistent play early, but I am completely convinced now. The first few games, Brogdon really struggled at the point guard position. He just was not making smart decisions with the ball and wasn't all that productive, either. Even the switch to his natural role as a shooting guard didn't fix everything. While his play improved, he still was not playing well on a consistent basis. However, it seems that all it really took was for that rust to wear off, as he has been simply perfect in ACC play. Just look at those stats. Keep in mind that even in a down year for the league, the competition is still significantly tougher than the majority of the non-conference slate. And yet, Malcolm has gotten better and better. A week ago I said I was okay with writers leaving him off of their midseason First Team All ACC ballots. He should definitely be on it now. Few (if any) players in the league have been as consistently dominant as Brogdon in league play. I mean, SportsIllustrated wrote this for a reason.
Total Grade: A
OOC Stats- 8.85 pts (72%, 0%, 66%) 3.85 reb, .38 ast, .31 blk, .08 stl, 1.38 to
ACC Stats- 5.22 ptss (47%, 0%, 52%) 4.22 reb, .22 ast, .33 blk, .22 stl, .55 to
OOC Play- B
ACC Play- B
Like Anderson, Anthony Gill is now a bench player after beginning the year in the starting lineup. Virginia fans, myself included, expected great things from the South Carolina transfer, and he certainly didn't disappoint in the opener against JMU (13 pts on 5-5 shooting). However, Gill followed the performance by only scoring 5 points the next two games. His non-conference play was mostly up and down. When he was on, Gill would take control of the game. When he wasn't, he found himself riding the pine. While he hasn't had any real breakout games in conference play, one could argue that what he has done is find a way to contribute on a nightly basis. So while the two looked vastly different, that is why I graded his two halves equally. I will add that I expect him to be a big factor next year after Akil Mitchell graduates. Once he gets the defense down (he looks to be on his way), I think he will make plenty of noise.
Total Grade: B
OOC Stats- 11.07 pts (49%, 39%, 63%), 3.85 reb, 2.15 ast, .15 blk, .70 stl, 1.77 to
ACC Stats- 12 pts (46%, 46%, 70%), 2.22 reb, 2.33 ast, .33 blk, 1.11 stl, .88 to
Prior to the season, I argued that Joe's point total would not drop significantly from last year's average of around 15 per game. I thought that, while there would be more competition for points, there would also be more opportunities for clean looks given the amount of offensive weapons on the team. Well it looks like I might have been wrong after all, but Joe is still having a solid Senior season, despite the criticism he has received. In non-conference play, Joe has a tendency to get overly complacent, and as a result, had nights where he barely made an impact. He did have other games where he looked like last year's version of #SWOON, but it was weird seeing him have two games where he didn't score more than two points. Still, even in OOC play, he shot the ball well and played good basketball. With the rise of Malcolm Brogdon, he has been content scoring 10-12 a game against ACC foes. I think if he really wanted to, he could easily score more, but there's no need. The thing that really stands out about the 2014 version of Joe Harris is his defense. In four years, Joe has transformed from an average at best defender into someone I think merits ACC All Defensive Team consideration.
Total Grade: B+
OOC Stats- .77 pts (15%, 0%, 60%), .23 reb, .31 ast, 0 blk, .15 stl, .08 to
ACC Stats- .44 pts (33%, 0%, 0%), .22 reb, .33 ast, 0 blk, .22 stl, 0 to
Like Whitey, I have to give Teven an N/A. He just hasn't played enough relevant minutes to merit a grade, either good or bad. However, I do like his energy both on the bench both on and off the court. It was fun to see him dunk against the Hokies. I was really happy for him.
OOC Stats- 6.07 pts (44%, 0%, 49%), 5.46 reb, 1.38 ast, .38 blk, .92 stl, 1.62 to
ACC Stats- 7.77 pts (55%, 0%, 39%), 8.55 reb, 1.11 ast, .66 blk, 1 stl, .88 to
I had high expectations for Akil coming into this season. He was coming off a stellar campaign and had, by all indications, a great summer, despite injuring his hand. I read somewhere that he was more than holding his own against the best post players in the country at the LeBron James Skills Academy. So given all of this, I assumed he would pick up right where he left off a year ago. Well, that didn't exactly happen, as Mitchell played uncharacteristically poor defense, turned the ball over far too often, and wasn't much of an impact offensively in the first couple of games of the season. However, in ACC, Akil has really stepped his game up. He has proven himself to be one of the best interior defenders and rebounders in the nation and has cut his turnovers in half. Now, if he could only knock down some free throws...
Total Grade: B+
OOC Stats- 3.08 pts (35%, 32%, 80%), .5 reb, .33 ast, 0 blk, .5 stl, .42 to
ACC Stats- 2.13 (38%, 42%, 0%), .88 reb, .38 ast, .13 blk, .13 stl, .38 to
I'm not going to give Nolte a grade because of his inconsistent playing time, but I do think Whitey's grade of C was a bit harsh. While technically speaking, Evan has not exactly played well, I love how he's embraced his role. Not many former top 100 recruits would react to a dip in playing time like Evan has. He wants this team to win and he knows that the best way for him to help make that happen is to embrace his role as a situational shooter. I think he can develop into more than that in the years to come, but right now, with this team's depth, that's what they need from him, and that's what he's given them (for the most part).
OOC Stats- 3.77 pts (24%, 27%, 86%), 2.15 reb, 3.15 ast, .08 blk, 1 stl, 1.23 to
ACC Stats- 5.22 pts (38%, 38%, 77%), 1.9 reb, 4.7 ast, .11 blk, 1.33 stl, 1 to
OOC Play- B-
ACC Play- A- (4.7 ast/to ratio!)
As many of you know, I was extremely high on London in high school. I loved his film and thought he would be exactly what this team needed. However, I had no idea how long it would take him to be ready to contribute or play significant minutes. In just the second game, I was convinced that he needed to start at point guard. While his early play certainly wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, it gave us all a glimpse of what was to come. Once he settled in, he was going to be an ideal floor general for this squad. He struggled mightily with his shot early but has shown improvement since then. Virginia does not need him to score more than a few points this year as long as he continues to play his game. I gave him a harsh grade for OOC mainly because of his shot and defense. However, I'm giving him a B+ for the total grade because I simply can't justify giving him a B.
Total Grade: B+
OOC Stats- 7.08 pts (49%, 0%, 64%), 5.54 reb, .15 ast, 1.23 blk, .38 stl, 1.23 to
ACC Stats- 8.33 pts (41%, 0%, 81%), 4.11 reb, .77 ast, 1.22 blk, .11 stl, 1.33 to
OOC Play- C+
ACC Play- B+
Simply put, it has been an up and down year for Mike. At times, he has looked unguardable, dropped baby hooks and elbow jumpers left and right. Other times, he has a tendency to get cold, take poor shots, and play loose with the ball. Given the competition compared to what he faced this summer, Tobey should have have been more effective in OOC play. However, he appears to be getting at least a bit more comfortable as the season has progressed. I especially like that he is a better rebounder and defender than he was last year. Hopefully, he can continue to improve his consistency on offense, as he can be a real matchup problem when he's feeling it.
Total Grade: B-
Tony Bennett (& Staff):
This year might have been the first time I found myself criticizing Tony Bennett. After the Wisconsin game, I wondered how this team could possibly be that bad offensively. The weapons were there, they just weren't getting open looks, and when they were, they weren't hitting them. I actually felt a little nostalgic of the "let Joe/Mike Scott do everything" offenses of the previous two years. Thankfully, I didn't catch much of the Tennessee game, but afterwards I had the feeling that maybe, just maybe that might wake this passive team and staff up. I didn't think Tony would stand for that kind of loss and would make sure that his team would prove it a fluke. That's what I thought, but I wasn't exactly confident in it actually coming to fruition. Well, it certainly has, as it seems everyone except for Virginia and Tennessee fans have either forgotten about or just don't care about that outcome. Heck, even Jay Bilas wrote the other day about how Tennessee had lost to good teams like Virginia and Xavier (that made me chuckle). If Bennet can make a guy like Bilas not only rank his team 9th in the country, but also think they won a game they lost by 35, he did something right. That still doesn't mean he gets a pass for that game or the other OOC flops.
OOC Play: C- (SMU saved it from being a D+)
ACC Play: A
Total Grade: B+
Ultimately, I was a little nicer to our guys than Whitey was. I tended to weigh the ACC results a bit more, because they count for more and it's tough to penalize an individual when the whole team is playing poorly.