Game Preview: St. Francis NY

I’m loath to count a win before it’s won, but St. Francis looks like they’re in trouble. For starters, they’re outmanned: they lost two of their three leading scorers from a 2016 squad that lost to BC by 26 and Louisville by 44, and received only eight minutes from players taller than 6'6'’ in their 86–61 loss at NC State to open this season. The Terriers possess the lowest Pomeroy ranking (325th of 351) of any 2016–17 Virginia opponent and only have three projected wins before Christmas, one of which comes against DII Mount St. Vincent. They might need St. Francis himself to call in some divine intervention in order for this to be a game.

With the outcome not likely to bring much suspense, I’m most interested in seeing how we integrate Austin Nichols (suspended for the VCU and Vandy scrimmages and season opener) and Mamadi Diakite (suspended for the season opener) into the big man rotation, which was good enough to win against UNCG but did seem a little thin. For what it’s worth, the UVa game notes oracle that predicted the redshirts of Jay Huff and DeAndre Hunter has both of our new bigs debuting off of the bench. Nichols is clearly a starting lineup caliber player, but he’s either getting a game or two off of the bench to ease his way into things or the oracle is deliberately misleading us.

From the look of St. Francis’s loss to NC State, they’re heading down the trail blazed by last year’s Terriers, who finished below 300th in the country in all of offensive efficiency, EFG%, 3PT%, and turnover rate and got really close (292nd) in free throw percentage. I’ll give them this: they led the Wolfpack 7–4 four minutes in, only trailed by 11 at the half, and never surrendered a backbreaking run, instead gradually wearing down to the final margin — an impressive accomplishment given that they shot 36% on twos, 30% on their 26 three point tries, turned it over 13 times, and committed 25 fouls.

St. Francis has never been an offensive juggernaut (they’ve posted an EFG% greater than 50 once in the last five seasons), and Glenn Braica is self aware enough of a coach to send rebounders to the rim en masse: those five teams have grabbed 32.5%, 34.4%, 33.2%, 39.6%, and 32.3% of their own misses, despite never getting big contributions from anyone 6'8'’ or taller during that time. If they deploy this strategy against us (they did against NC State, grabbing 14 offensive boards), then Darius Thompson might find himself taking advantage of the lack of transition attention to record some new highlights for VirginiaSportsTV intro videos.

Defensively, it’s hard to glean much info on a team from one game full of mismatches unless you’re hoping yours is, too (we are). NC State hammered St. Francis inside, shot 65% on twos (and only seven threes, compared to the 24 they took in their opener), rebounded half (!) of their own misses, and went to the line 36 times. We should be able to duplicate most of that, though I won’t be disappointed if we take more threes than NC State did.

On an individual level, 5'10'’ senior Yunus Hopkinson is St. Francis’s returning leading scorer (12.2 ppg) and shooter (36.4% of 208 three point tries), and he scored 13 against NC State. He’s joined as scoring threats by 5'10'’ sophomore Glenn Sanabria (14 points, 4–13 shooting) and 6'2'’ freshman Rasheem Dunn (12 points, 4–11). 6'10'’ Joshua Nurse committed three fouls in five minutes.

Eights:

Virginia
G: London Perrantes — 6'2'’ sr #32

LP should be able to sit back even more tomorrow than he did vs UNCG (10 points, 3 assists). 
G: Devon Hall — 6'5'’ jr #0
I’d like to see a more aware, decisive Devon tomorrow night than the guy we saw in Greensboro. 
G: Darius Thompson — 6'4'’ jr #51
Someday, people will consult the UVa record book for consecutive threes and will see Darius, whose jumper still knuckles a little on its way. 
F: Isaiah Wilkins — 6'7'’ jr #21
I wanted him to step up on the boards. Game one: 26.7% DREB, 16.6% OREB, nine rebounds overall. 
F: Austin Nichols — 6'9'’ jr #1
I know that this is probably still Jack Salt’s gig, but I’m giddy over Nichols’s debut. 
G: Kyle Guy — 6'3'’ fr #5
Guy was, to coin a phrase from our coach, very sound in the opener. It’s hard to see him playing less minutes than 19. 
F: Marial Shayok — 6'6'’ jr #4
A healthy, confident Marial is very difficult to stop. In addition, he only committed one foul in 20 minutes and went 5–5 from the line. 
F: Jarred Reuter — 6'7'’ so #31
Reuter did some things in Greensboro (35.6% OREB rate), but he finished almost half of his possessions with a turnover.

St. Francis

G: Yunus Hopkinson — 5'10'’ sr #2
Made 75 threes in 32 games last season and hit 36.4% of them. Wasn’t a better weapon because he shot 30.9% (!!) on twos. 
G: Glenn Sanabria — 5'11'’ so #10
Scored a team-high 14 against NC State and dished three assists. Hit 44% of his threes as a part-timer in 2015 before missing most of last season. 
G: Gunnar Olafsson — 6'3'’ jr #4
Fun with small sample size: the 6'3'’ Olafsson grabbed 28.6% of defensive rebound chances and 13.9% on the offensive end against State. 
G: Keon Williams — 6'4'’ so #13
I tried really hard to find something nice about Williams buried in the stats. I guess he can make threes: he made seven of his last 18 after starting last season 4–19. 
F: Joshua Nurse — 6'10'’ so #11
Nurse committed three fouls in five minutes at State after averaging 11.4/40 in his freshman year. Whoever draws the start at center will be shooting. 
G: Rasheem Dunn — 6'2'’ fr #0 Hit two threes and scored 12 points with two steals in 23 minutes in his college debut. 
F: Robert Montgomery — 6'6'’ fr #5
Decent quickness as a wing, but his size means he’s shoehorned up front on a team as small as this one. 
G/F: Darell Porter — 6'5'’ jr #23
Scored four points and secured three rebounds in Raleigh.

Verdict: 
This game will go one of two ways: UVa will either roll in truly impressive fashion (by 30+ while scoring more than 80) or come out sloppy and disinterested and win by 20 to 25 points without securing any style points (say, 65–41 or something else that says ugly before you even click the box score).

St. Francis faces too much of a size, athleticism, and skill deficit to pull off the latter option even if we are sloppy. This could be a big night for fans of Justice Bartley.

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