Film Session: Breaking down what Virginia is missing without Justin Anderson

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Virginia has played three games — and a half against Louisville — since Justin Anderson went down with a broken bone on his left hand, and if anything has become clear over the course of those 140 minutes, it’s that the Cavaliers are not the same team without their All-American.

The biggest impact comes on the offensive end of the floor, where Anderson’s absence is truly felt.

In wins over N.C. State, Wake Forest and Pitt — none of whom rank higher than 110th in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom — Virginia has scored 173 points in 174 possessions, a far cry from the offense that had spent the majority of the season ranked in the top ten in offensive efficiency.

The change isn’t simply a result of Anderson’s 48.4 percent three-point shooting — by far the best on Virginia’s roster — not being on the floor, although that plays a major role. Defenses had to be aware of where Anderson was on the offensive end of the floor at all times. Anderson’s presence kept teams honest when Virginia threw the ball into the post and helped them create space for drivers and cutters.

The guy that has taken over Anderson’s minutes has been junior wing Evan Nolte. In the last four games, Nolte has averaged 26.5 minutes. In the four games prior to Anderson’s injury, Nolte played a total of 16 minutes. He’s shooting 22.9 percent from three on the season, and while he’s 4-for-13 from three since Anderson went down, those 13 threes were all really good looks:

As you can see, Virginia’s opponents were not exactly scared of leaving Nolte all alone on the perimeter. That’s a problem, because offensively, Nolte isn’t much more than a spot-up shooter. In 2015, Nolte has taken all of three shots from inside the arc and gotten to the line just twice, missing both. Anderson did much of his damage as a spot-up shooter, but he’s more well-rounded. He could come off of a screen and hit a jumper or curl to the rim. He could beat a close-out with a pump-fake and a straight-line drive. He could finish above the rim in transition or in traffic in half court sets. Virginia generally drops their three perimeter players back to prevent against fast breaks, but Anderson was still able to pick up some second chance points from time to time.

Anderson was an ideal fit in the role that Tony Bennett needed him to play, and Nolte is just not ready to fill that void.

But offense is not the only area where Virginia took a hit with Anderson out.

Nolte is nowhere near the defender that Anderson is either. The good news for Virginia is that the Pack-Line defense they play is designed to over-help on the defensive end, covering up some of Nolte’s defensive issues. But that doesn’t change the fact that Virginia’s best perimeter defender is no longer in the lineup, and that chink in the armor is a weak spot opponents can attack.

For example, Nolte not only gets beaten on a cut to the middle of the lane by Sheldon Jeter here, Jeter is able to elevate over him in the paint:

But here’s the most important part of this: none of it actually matters, as long as Anderson is healthy and back in the lineup come NCAA tournament time.

Virginia has done enough this season that they should be able to survive two more losses, whether they come during the regular season or in the ACC tournament, and still wind up with a No. 1 seed. Even if they lose more than two games — say, at Syracuse, at Louisville and in the ACC semifinals — they’re still looking at a situation where they are, at worst, ACC regular season co-champions with road wins at VCU, Maryland, Notre Dame and North Carolina.

And if it’s clear that Anderson is coming back, the selection committee will have to keep in mind that the Cavs were without their best player during the worst stretch of their season.

Virginia doesn’t need Justin Anderson to win the ACC or to get a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

But they are not the same team without him, and if the Cavs are going to make a run in March, they need him healthy by the time the NCAA tournament starts.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in Eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also participate in a community service activity with local organizations in the relief effort.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide a temporary escape with basketball and community engagement.”

The scrimmage traditionally is held at Rupp Arena. It will occur eight days after its Big Blue Madness public workout at Rupp.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies


SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.