Virginia Cavaliers

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Virginia’s Thompson to transfer

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Virginia lost another member of its team Thursday.

The Cavaliers announced Darius Thompson will transfer out of the program, a day after the news of Marial Shayok and Jarred Reuter’s departures.

“Darius Thompson informed me he has decided to play his final season at another school following his graduation from Virginia,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said in a statement released by the school. “Although you never want to see young men transfer, I understand this is part of coaching. Darius, Marial, and Jarred feel it’s in their best interests to pursue other options for the remainder of their college careers.

“I will always appreciate the contributions they made to our program.”

Thompson, who would be immediately eligible as a graduate transfer, began his career at Tennessee before transferring to Charlottesville, where he averaged 5.2 points and 1.8 assists over two seasons. The 6-foot-4 guard shot 44.8 percent from the field and 35.1 percent from 3-point range last season.

Despite the three defections, Virginia returns a number of pieces that contributed to their 23-11 season.

As we look forward, we have a strong nucleus of players returning,” Bennett said, “and I’m excited for their continued development. As a staff, we are focused on finding student-athletes who want to be a part of this program and all the University of Virginia has to offer.”

Shayok and Reuter transferring from Virginia

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Virginia announced the departure of two players Wednesday.

Marial Shayok and Jarred Reuter will both transfer out of the program, the school said.

“Marial and Jarred informed me today that they are leaving the Virginia basketball program and are looking to transfer to other schools,” Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett said in a statement released by the school. “I thank Marial and Jarred for their hard work and contributions to our program, and wish them success in the future.”

Shayok, a a 6-foot-5 junior, played 20.9 minutes per game last season for the Cavaliers, averaging 8.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game while shooting 44.5 percent from the floor. The Ottawa native started 23 games in three seasons with Virginia.

Reuter played a minimal role for the Cavaliers, averaging just 10.8 minutes and 3.8 rebounds per game.

Clemson’s uphill battle for the NCAA tournament continues with loss to No. 19 Virginia

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London Perrantes knocked down a key go-ahead three-pointer with just under two minutes left as No. 19 Virginia outlasted Clemson for a 77-73 ACC road win.

With the game tied at 70 with two minutes left, Perrantes showed why he’s one of college basketball’s most clutch shooters by burying another game-deciding jumper. The senior point guard finished with a game-high 25 points as he led an efficient offensive effort for Virginia that saw the ‘Hoos shoot 58 percent (29-for-50) from the floor and 55 percent (10-for-18) from three-point range.

Virginia also had a strong outing from forward Marial Shayok, as he finished with 17 points and seven rebounds, while Isaiah Wilkins added eight points and 13 rebounds.

This is a nice road win for Virginia, especially since they’ve struggled in close games in ACC play. After some recent close losses to Florida State and Pitt in overtime, it was important for Virginia to come out on top on the road against a team with NCAA tournament aspirations.

While this win is solid for Virginia, this loss is potentially catastrophic for Clemson’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Losing against a top-25 team like the Cavaliers isn’t going to hurt too much but this now makes four consecutive losses for the Tigers as they now fall to 1-4 in ACC play and 11-5 overall. Clemson needs all the ACC wins they can get as they try to build up an NCAA tournament resume and the Tigers just squandered a valuable opportunity for a good win against a quality opponent.

Now Clemson has to go on the road at Louisville and host Virginia Tech in the next two games as neither of those two games are going to be easy to win. I think it’s safe to say that we’re getting close to must-win time for this team and the Tigers need to fix things in a hurry to save their season. Looking over Clemson’s resume, their best win at the moment is over South Carolina, so they really need to start picking off some of the ACC’s better teams in a hurry if they want to make it back in the tournament.

Four Takeaways from No. 12 Virginia’s win over No. 6 Louisville

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Virginia appears to be the bully Louisville just can’t seem to conquer.

The 12th-ranked Cavaliers led by as much as 21 points and defeated the No. 6 Cardinals, 61-53, on the road at KFC Yum! Center to claim their fourth win in five tries against Rick Pitino’s squad.

Virginia dominated play for all but a stretch in the second half courtesy of their always-staunch defense and an offensive attack that spread the love around. It’s by far the best win of the year for Tony Bennett and the Cavaliers.

Here are five things we learned from the game:

1. Virginia is an awful matchup for Louisville: The Cavaliers have now beaten the Cardinals in four of their last five matchups, and it’s anything but a fluke they keep coming out on top. Tony Bennett’s style and personnel is just a nightmare for Rick Pitino’s group.

The famed pack-line defense Virginia employs is especially devastating when it’s unleashed against a team that can’t space the floor with shooting, which is exactly what Louisville has been the last two-plus years. In 2015, when the two teams split a pair of games, the Cardinals shot 30.7 percent from 3-point range while in 2016, with Virginia took both matchups, Louisville came in at 34.7 percent from deep but fired up fewer attempts from distance than any other team in the country. They went 2 of 14 from distance this night.

With Virginia’s ability to eliminate fast break opportunities with its pace of play and its prowess on the glass, that leaves Louisville falling to option D, E and F more often than not, which is a pretty good explainer of why the Cardinals are averaging 50.4 points per game in their last five matchups with Virginia.

AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley
AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley

2. Virginia’s offense can get clunky long enough to cause problems: Maybe they got lackadaisical or bored when the lead got to 21, but Virginia’s offense went completely sideways for 7 full minutes in the second half that, while it didn’t cost them the game, does make for an easy nit to pick.

The Cavaliers turned the ball over four times – two coming from point guard London Perrantes – and went 1 of 10 from the field. That’s a stretch that will often get you beat on the road – unless you’ve built yourself a 21-point cushion.

Still, it’s a picture of Virginia’s offense when things go wrong. Perrantes is a big-shot shooter – he’s got ice in his veins – but he’s not the type you want just going to work time and again down the floor. He’s a facilitator first and foremost. The Cavaliers are an offense-by-committee team with a balanced attack that doesn’t have that go-to guy. Which leads us to Point No. 3:

3. Kyle Guy isn’t Malcolm Brogdon, but he is a bucket-getter: The idea for Virginia this season in replacing All-American Malcolm Brogdon, whose number will be retired by the school this winter, on the offensive end was with Austin Nichols inside. Well, that plan got junked when Nichols was kicked off the team after appearing in just one game. He’s just a freshman, but Kyle Guy might be just the person to fill that shot-making void.

I’m not saying he’s going to average close to 20 points this year, but the kid is unafraid to hunt his shot and doesn’t shy away from tough or big looks. He had nine points on 3 of 5 shooting (3 of 3 from the line) in just 19 minutes against Louisville.

Virginia is built on defense. That grinding style is what is going to keep them near the top of the ACC and a high seed come March, but they’re going to need buckets periodically. Perrantes can score consistently, but Guy is the one player that can score in bunches. He’s the type of player that can win Virginia a game coming off the bench and going wild. Guy just seems destined to go bonkers in an NCAA tournament game this year when Virginia needs him most.

He’s got a role to play – he’s not starting and averaging under 20 minutes per game – but that role is clear, defined and integral to Virginia’s success. Guy is tailor-made for it.

4. The ACC is as bonkers as we predicted: Everyone knew coming into the year that the ACC was going to be awesome at the top, and there’s no indication to the contrary. Virginia’s win Wednesday shot them up to the top spot in KenPom, giving the league the No. 1 , 2 (Duke) and 3 (North Carolina) teams in KP’s rankings, along with Louisville at No. 8.

Given Duke’s strange – and maybe fleeting – troubles, the league race may not be the Blue Devil coronation it appeared it might be throughout the last few weeks. Virginia, even without Nichols, is a machine, North Carolina is among the country’s most talented teams and Louisville matches up better with the 12 other teams in the league not coached by Tony Bennett. And that’s to say nothing of intriguing teams like Florida State, Clemson and Miami.

Louisville's head coach Rick Pitino shouts instructions to his team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016, in Louisville, Ky. Virginia won 61-53. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley

Hall leads No. 13 Virginia past Robert Morris, 79-39

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Devon Hall’s offense is coming around after a slow start to the season, and on a Virginia team that lacks a go-to scorer, it’s an important development as the 13th-ranked Cavaliers head into the more challenging part of their schedule.

Hall matched his career high with 13 points and the Cavaliers returned from a 10-day layoff for final exams with a 79-39 victory over Robert Morris on Saturday.

“Devon’s always an intense player and he’s physical so I’m glad to see him have a little success, either a drive and a finish or making a 3 or getting to the foul line,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said of the 6-foot-5 redshirt junior. “His intensity and his physicality were key tonight.”

Hall came into the game ninth on the team with a 5.0 scoring average, and became the seventh Cavalier to at least share top scoring honors in a game.

“We do not have a guy you can say, `He’s going to get you 20 tonight, or even 15 or 18,”‘ Bennett said, so the balance is critical.

Freshman Kyle Guy also scored 13 points and Jack Salt had a career-best 10 for the Cavaliers (9-1), who overcame a sluggish start and broke the game open with a 38-8 run spanning halftime. It turned a 13-12 deficit into a 50-21 lead early in the second half.

Isaiah Still led Robert Morris (3-9) with 16 points and Dachon Burke had seven. The Colonials shot just 23.9 percent (11 of 46) and became the fourth team held to fewer than 40 points by the Cavaliers, who lead the nation in scoring defense (47.6).

“They wear you down,” Colonials coach Andrew Toole said. “Once they kind of get that lead, you’re in a world of trouble.”

Jarred Reuter also scored 10 points for Virginia, which outscored the Colonials 48-8 in the paint and 41-14 off the bench.

BIG PICTURE

Robert Morris: The Colonials appear to be in a youth movement with sophomore scoring leader Still (15 ppg) and freshmen Braden Burke and Dachon Burke all getting significant minutes. They won the Northeast Conference two years ago under Toole and have been to postseason play four times in the past five seasons, but seem more likely to suffer through growing pains with their future stars gaining experience than to make much noise this season.

Virginia: The Cavaliers were wise to schedule a lesser opponent for their first game in 11 days after a break for finals because they came out looking sluggish and sloppy before finally getting it together and closing the half on a 20-5 run. They will need to be sharper at California on Wednesday night.

HOMECOMINGS

Virginia’s game at California is the best Bennett could do in giving London Perrantes, from Los Angeles, a game before his home fans, but the senior point guard won’t be the only Cavalier with lots of family in attendance.

Salt, who is from New Zealand, said eight family members are making the 13-hour flight to see him play.

SHOOTING BLANKS

Still was 5 for 10 from the field for Robert Morris. The rest of the team was 6 for 36.

PASSING FANCY

Virginia forward Isaiah Wilkins and reserve point guard Ty Jerome shared the team lead with six assists each. Jerome’s came in just 16 minutes of playing time as Bennett substituted liberally and gave his younger players extended floor time before the schedule toughens.

Wilkins finished with seven points, six rebounds, six assists, a block and a steal in 21 minutes.

UP NEXT

Robert Morris is at home next Wednesday against Buffalo in its final game before beginning Northeast Conference play.

Virginia heads west to face California in its last non-conference game before ACC play begins.

More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org

College Basketball Talk Top 25: Duke is back in the No. 1 spot

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I made some changes in my top 25 this week, and I did it for one reason and one reason only: I think Duke is the best team in college basketball.

And I get it. I might be the only one that ranks Duke No. 1 this week, because there are so many other teams with valid argument to be ranked above Duke.

  • Villanova was No. 1 last week and all they did was beat a city rival and then knock off No. 21 Notre Dame.
  • Kansas has already beaten Duke this season on a neutral court.
  • UCLA owns the most impressive win of the season, picking off Kentucky in Rupp Arena. Duke has beaten Florida, Rhode Island and Michigan State and played Kansas tough.
  • Baylor has the best résumé of anyone to date.

But these rankings are supposed to be used to determine who is the best team in the country, right?

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBC Sports Top 25

And I think that Duke is the best team in college basketball. We all had them there in the preseason, before all of the injuries. Now that they’re getting back to full strength, we’re just going to ignore that fact because Frank Mason II hit a jumper and Villanova hasn’t given us a reason to drop them?

I guess I understand the logic, but it just seems silly to rank someone else No. 1 when you don’t think they’re the best team in the country.

Anyway, here is the NBCSports.com Top 25:

RELATED: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Five Things We Learned

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1. Duke (10-1, Last Week: 4)
2. Villanova (10-0, 1)
3. UCLA (10-0, 2)
4. Kansas (9-1, 3)
5. Kentucky (9-1, 5)
6. North Carolina (10-1, 6)
7. Gonzaga (10-0, 7)
8. Baylor (8-0, 8)
9. Creighton (10-0, 9)
10. Indiana (8-1, 10)
11. Wisconsin (9-2, 11)
12. Louisville (9-1, 12)
13. West Virginia (8-1, 15)
14. Purdue (8-2, 14)
15. South Carolina (8-0, 17)
16. Xavier (8-2, 13)
17. Saint Mary’s (7-1, 14)
18. Virginia (8-1, 18)
19. Butler (9-1, 19)
20. USC (9-0, 21)
21. Notre Dame (9-1, 24)
22. Cincinnati (7-2, 19)
23. Oregon (9-2, NR)
24. Arizona (8-2, NR)
25. Texas A&M (7-2, NR)

DROPPED OUT: No. 21 Florida, No. 23 Syracuse, No. 25 Iowa State
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 23 Oregon, No. 24 Arizona, No. 25 Texas A&M