OMAHA, NE - MARCH 15: Head coach Tony Bennett of the Virginia Cavaliers addresses the media during a press conference prior to practice for the second round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at CenturyLink Center on March 15, 2012 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
SB Nation's Virginia blog, Streaking the Lawn, swapped questions and answers with us in advance of Florida's NCAA Tournament game against Virginia, which tips in about two hours in Omaha. You can check out my answers to their questions at Streaking the Lawn; Brian J. Leung was kind enough to provide the answers you see below.
We hear a lot about Virginia's defense, and how this game is going to be an offense vs. defense matchup. Is there any one thing the Cavs do that makes you think they can shut down Florida?
As slow as Virginia’s pace may be, the Hoos are actually pretty quick on defense. The way the D is set up, it makes you look like you have an open three-ball to take, but every shot gets contested. Keep an eye out for ACC All-Defense player Jontel Evans. If he’s on the ball, he’ll pick it from right out under your noses. He’s listed at 5’11", and that probably includes his ‘fro, but he’s one of the most explosive players out there and will give whoever he’s guarding fits all night long.
Truth be told, I’m pretty worried about Florida’s offense. But it’s hard to pinpoint any one thing that makes Virginia’s defense so good.
Mike Scott is obviously one of the country's best players. But does Virginia have enough behind him to have a chance if he gets shut down?
Aside from Mike Scott, we have five healthy scholarship players and one guy with a broken hand. What more do you need? Next question, please.
Okay, I see your point. Scott has been double- and triple-teamed all year long. If you look at Virginia’s second game against North Carolina this year, Scott was effectively taken out of the game, mostly because of poor officiating that resulted in early foul trouble. That turned out to be just a three-point loss with a few chances for Virginia to win the game. Scott was limited to 22 minutes and six points.
If Sammy Zeglinski can score in double-digits, I like Virginia’s chances. There’s nothing about him that would make you look and say, "that’s the heart and soul of Virginia right there," but he is. So he goes, so too go the Hoos. He’s been streaky for a lot of the season, but as he’s rounding the home stretch of his career, it looks like he’s closer to be hot than not. If Zeglinski’s hot, and if Joe Harris is hot, then I’ll take Virginia any day, even if Scott’s being contained.
Both Florida and Virginia have height deficiencies, especially up front. Do you see either team having an advantage down low?
I think Florida gets the advantage down low. For starters, Virginia doesn’t have a center, or a forward-center. We have two guys, Mike Scott and Akil Mitchell, who can play down low, but both are limited to 6’8" (Scott also recently just cut his hair, so perhaps 6’7") and are therefore outsized by Florida. And there’s not really much help from the bench after that, as the only "big" man is freshman Darion Atkins, who averages about 10 minutes a game and played only two during the last game, against NC State.
Kenpom shows that Virginia's most glaring weakness is offensive rebounding. You realize that if Florida still had Will Yeguete, you would be so screwed, right?
Well, that’s fine, but if you want to play the "what if" game, you’ve also got to know that Virginia is without their starting center Assane Sene, who was a defensive beast and injured his foot early in conference play. Virginia also lost a big man, James Johnson, who was one of two players to announce on Christmas Eve that he’s transferring elsewhere. What started as a completely healthy and one of our best-looking teams in a while has finished with two transfers, one season-ending injury, one injury-that-later-turned-into-a-season-ending-violation-of-team-rules, and one guy who is playing with a broken hand. Virginia has precisely seven scholarship players and thirteen hands to work with, so if we’re playing the "what if" game, you’re basically talking about a whole different team here.
That said, Kenpom doesn’t take into account the fact that Virginia simply does not go for offensive boards. Under the Tony Bennett system, immediately after the shot, players drop back on defense to prevent transition points. It’s going to be another point of focus for the Florida game, undoubtedly, so it’s not really fair to say that Virginia’s getting "beat" on its offensive boards, when in actuality, we just don’t go for them.
Did the Michael Scott and Tony Bennett jokes get stale a month into their respective tenures, or...?
I’ve been too busy watching Mike Scott crush everybody in sight to have noticed Michael Scott jokes. To my pleasant surprise, they didn’t really crop up as much as one would think, until Virginia made the tournament and all of a sudden new media members were covering the team. And then it got old really fast.
The Bennett jokes, on the other hand, have been coming at a fast a furious pace. But For Once In My Life, Bennett has led the Cavaliers From Rags to Riches, and fans are finally enjoying a piece of The Good Life coming Just In Time for The Boulevard of Broken Dreams known as March Madness. So to answer your questions, definitely no. Not stale yet.
But I might be a part of the problem, having left my heart in Charlottesville.