March Madness 2019

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Virginia and Texas Tech deliver a classic title game

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MINNEAPOLIS — Jarrett Culver and Chris Beard stood in the corner of the raised floor, embracing, commiserating and consoling as their opponents celebrated the national championship they so desperately wanted just a few feet away. Beard wrapped his arms around Culver, and told the sophomore star he loved him.

Then, Tony Bennett, moments after a game that will redefine his career and legacy, made his way to that corner, around his team and toward the two Red Raiders.

“He told me to keep my head up, keep pushing,” Culver recalled, “and, ‘great game.’”

One of the greatest, even.

Virginia completed one of the best comeback stories in the history of sports when the confetti fell on its 85-77 overtime victory against Texas Tech in a game that featured all-time performances and historic moments in a classic 45 minutes of basketball.

Anyone fretting that pitting two of the country’s best defenses against each other on the biggest stage might lead to a monumental flop need not have worried.

Texas Tech and Virginia gave us one of the best final nights of the season in the game’s history. It was absolutely that good.

It featured two of the sports unquestioned best teams, a pair of elite coaches, a couple lottery picks and more drama than we deserved. It wasn’t perfect, but it was fantastic.

“It was, Bennett said, “a terrific game.”

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

It was a game of stories and a game of moments, with the latter informing the former.

The final 6 minutes of regulation was what made this game go from great to all-timer. Virginia led by eight, a monster lead given its soul-snatching defense and time-sucking offense. But when Kyler Edwards’ bucket trimmed it to six and Matt Mooney’s triple halved it to three, the prospect of a Red Raider comeback – and Virginia collapse – seemed possible.

Then Ty Jerome clanked a 3, and Norense Odiase, who has spent the last five years in a Texas Tech jersey, banged home a layup and was fouled. His and-one tied the game, and set U.S. Bank Stadium ablaze.

“We started making plays,” Culver said, “and that opened up the door.”

Virginia did not wilt, however, getting buckets from De’Andre Hunter and Kyle Guy to go back up four. The game, unsatisfied to follow a clean trajectory, whipsawed back to Texas Tech, which got a triple from Davide Moretti and a layup from Culver to take the lead for the first time since the last minutes of the first half. When Odiase made two free throws seconds later, Texas Tech had a three-point cushion and 22 seconds to kill to claim its first national title.

Instead, Hunter reached legend status.

Jerome penetrated into the paint and looked like he might try the same floater he missed just a possession earlier, but instead floated a pass out to the corner to Hunter, who caught the ball near his head, reloaded it into his shooting pocket and fired away, splashing a triple with 14 seconds left to tie the game.

“I just took my time and shot it,” Hunter said. “I just was standing there. I just stood there. I didn’t move, really.”

Some guys run into history, Hunter stood and shot his way there. It’s that make he’ll be remembered for, but his night of 27 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in 44 minutes make for one of the best title-game performances ever.

We could have scrambled at him and ran at him a little bit more, and that might be a coaching mistake, but we were dialed in,” Beard said. “We knew who he was. He just hit a lot of tough shots.”

Still, Texas Tech had a chance to tie it after what nearly became the most infamous attempted timeout since Chris Webber in 1993.

Culver’s potential go-ahead 3 missed its mark with 5 seconds remaining and Hunter corralled the rebound. He looked to pass the ball up ahead to Guy, but the hero of Saturday’s semifinal win wasn’t using his hands to catch a pass. Instead, he was signalling for timeout when Hunter’s pass sailed out of bounds with 1 second remaining, giving Texas Tech one last chance to head home to Lubbock with snipped nets and a trophy in tow.

Instead, Braxton Key blocked Culver’s fadeaway attempt and the country was gifted with an additional 5 minutes of a beautiful basketball game.

I had the mindset to get downhill, create,” Culver said, “and I saw a switch. I felt like I had an open shot so I shot it.”

Overtime provided only a fraction of those final 6 minutes of regulation, with Texas Tech taking a three-point lead that would be overtaken by the Cavaliers and never returned. It ended with Hunter launching the ball into the Minneapolis air as a champion.

“I see guys do it all the time, and it looked cool to me,” he said, “so I wanted the ball and I wanted to throw it up.”

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

In the end, the game lived up to the two teams’ reputations as defensive juggernauts, but delivered the drama that some thought would be impossible to create with two teams who care more for stops than buckets.

That, though, missed the truth of this matchup. Yes, Virginia and Texas Tech are two of the best defenses in the country – and maybe that the sport has seen in recent years – but their offenses were far from disasters. Quite the opposite. Both had bucket-getters. Both had lottery picks. It had overtime for the first time since 2008.

It made for a cocktail that was both sweet and intoxicating.

It’s the greatest feeling I’ve ever felt in basketball,” Guy said.

On a stage that can crush or elevate, and both teams rose to the moment to create a crowning game that will forever rank among the best.

“It was everything and more. You dream as a kid to play in something like this,” Culver said.

Virginia’s rise to the pinnacle of the sport comes just a year after reaching its nadir against UMBC. Much the same team, a wholly different result. From historic loss to storybook redemption.

You have a scar, and it reminds you of that, but it’s a memory,” Bennett said. “Does it go away completely? No, I wish it wouldn’t have happened in some ways. Now I say, well, it bought us a ticket here. So be it.”

Virginia walked through the blue and orange confetti that littered the championship floor with Jerome carrying the national championship trophy back to the locker room. Mamadi Diakite sat there with a piece of net tied around his finger, a placeholder for the ring that will eventually adorn his hand. Guy smiled and cameras with a hat that read “CHAMPIONS” across the brim.

Virginia was the laughingstock of the sport last year, and came through to the other side as champions. The Cavaliers survived Carsen Edwards in the Elite 8. Guy’s free throws in the final second beat Auburn in the Final Four. Hunter’s late 3 and a steely resilience beat Texas Tech.

No laughingstock now. No doubts about system or style. No peers now.

Virginia is the national champion.

“It’s a great story,” Bennett said. “That’s probably the best way I can end this. It’s a great story.”

One of the greatest, even.

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Virginia wins OT thriller against Texas Tech to claim first national championship

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MINNEAPOLIS — Virginia has completed its historic comeback.

The Cavaliers, a year removed from suffering the worst loss in NCAA tournament history, are national champions after winning a thrilling title game, 85-77 in overtime, against Texas Tech at U.S. Bank Stadium on Monday night.

De’Andre Hunter’s 3-pointer with just over 2 minutes left in overtime put the Cavaliers up a pair, and Texas Tech went on nearly a 2-minute scoring drought as Virginia exorcised the ghost of UMBC with the first championship in school history.

The Cavaliers led by as many as 10 in the second half, but the Red Raiders knotted things up with just over 3 minutes to play in regulation.

With the game tied at 61, Hunter buried a 15-foot jumper with Jarrett Culver on him to put the Cavaliers up three. Culver clanked a 3 on the other end and Kyle Guy found a seam for a layup to put Virginia up 65-61. Texas Tech responded, however, when Davide Moretti made a 3 with 1:31 left on the clock to cut the deficit to a single point.

Hunter then looked to put the Cavs back up three, but Norense Odiase blocked his shot and the ball went out of bounds to Texas Tech. Culver then delivered on the other end with his signature spin, getting to the rim and finishing with his left hand to give Texas Tech a 66-65 lead with 35.1 seconds left. Ty Jerome’s floater missed the mark on the other end, and Odiase connected on two free throws to give Tech a three-point advantage but Hunter connected on a 3 to tie the game.

Culver’s potential game-winner was off the mark, and Hunter corralled the rebound but he attempted to outlet it to Guy, who was signaling for a timeout and missed the pass sailing out of bounds to give Texas Tech one final chance to win the game in regulation. Culver’s fadeaway, though, was blocked by Braxton Key to send the game into extra time.

The game’s start was as defensive-oriented as had been predicted with Texas Tech making just one of its first 11 shots as the Cavaliers walked out to a 10-point lead. The Red Raiders, though, finally got their offense jump-started with back-to-back 3s from Brandone Francis to make the stretch run of the first half compelling beyond just space-eating defense.

Virginia got a 3 from Ty Jerome right before the buzzer signaling the break to take a 32-29 lead into halftime as it held Texas Tech to 33.3 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes.

After the second half played to a stalemate, Virginia outscored the Red Raiders 19-11 in overtime.

Texas Tech proving Big 12 is more than Kansas’ dominance

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MINNEAPOLIS — Time and again this week, Tom Izzo was asked to account for the Big Ten. It’s been 20 years since the conference’s last national championship, if you hadn’t heard. That drought has come to define the conference in the postseason regardless of whatever success it has prior to that season’s final Monday night.

It’s a streak that continued to gain stream and a narrative that stayed alive when the Spartans fell Saturday night. The question becomes more frequent, with its asking louder every year.

What’s wrong with the Big Ten?

The Pac-12 doesn’t get that question because we all know why it hasn’t produced a title since Arizona’s in 1997 – it’s a league that produces a whole lot of bad basketball. On the cheap, too. Look no further than UCLA’s coaching search to see that league’s issues on full display.

That doesn’t explain, though, why the Big 12 has escaped much of the same scrutiny as the Big Ten. Yes, the Big 12 has a more recent title winner thanks to Derrick Rose’s missed free throws and Mario Chalmers’ answered prayer, but it’s been more than a decade since Bill Self cut down the nets at the Alamodome.

Deeper than that, the league’s national success outside the Jayhawks is nearly nonexistent. Long and loudly has it been discussed about Kansas’ 14-year domination of the Big 12, but Monday night’s game between Texas Tech and Virginia will be the league’s first non-Kansas title game appearance ever.

“Many, many good teams have never won a championship,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told NBCSports.com. “It’s very hard to do, and what Kansas has done in our league, as good as our conference has been from top to bottom for a very long time, for them to win consecutive championships like they have is astonishingly difficult.

“Being able to claim a national championship is an important marker for the conference and a great thing for Texas Tech. It’s enormously difficult to do.”

The Big 12’s reliance on Kansas for national relevancy extends just beyond the conference’s 23 years of existence. The forebears of the Big 12 – the Big 8 and Southwest Conference – don’t have a national champion among them, either. Oklahoma State won titles for the Missouri Valley Conference in 1945 and 1946, but the NIT was still the preeminent tournament and Oklahoma State wasn’t even Oklahoma State – it was known as Oklahoma A&M.

The last time the conference or its previous incarnations had a team other than Kansas in the title game was Oklahoma in 1988.

The Sooners, fittingly, lost to Larry Brown’s Kansas team in that title game.

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

This season, though, looks as perhaps teams are ready to step up and finally provide a counterweight to the Jayhawks.

Texas Tech and Kansas State shared the regular season title to end the Jayhawks’ vaunted streak, Iowa State won the Big 12 tournament for the fourth time in six years and the Red Raiders, of course, can win a national championship at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“Our expectations were to try to compete for championships and to have the resources and the mindset and the vision to do so,” third-year Red Raiders coach Chris Beard said. “Our goal has never been to make a tournament. It’s been to win the tournament. It’s easy to talk about, and really, really hard to do. But that’s where we started this whole thing, was just trying to have the expectations and the vision where we could be relative.”

Perhaps most maddening for the Big 12 has been this title drought amid being nearly universally praised as the best conference in basketball. It’s been the top-rated league by KenPom for six years running, and it’s double round-robin is recognized as the most difficult conference schedule in the country.

“I think the Big 12 has been competitive for years. Kansas has just had that magic,” Texas Tech assistant Glynn Cyprien, who previously spent four years at Oklahoma State, told NBCSports.com. “You look at it, there have been numerous teams that could have gotten to this point. They’ve been talented enough. They’ve played at high levels, but just haven’t made it for whatever reason.

“From top to bottom, the coaching is unbelievable. The best in the country. I think the game preparation among the coaches and staffs in this league is at another level. Overall, there are no easy teams, there are no easy wins in this league, unlike some leagues where you can steal some games at home or on the road. It’s hard to do in this league.”

That strength hasn’t translated into pinnacle postseason success for 11 years, though, and never for teams outside Lawrence.

“Oklahoma was a Final Four team a few years ago and didn’t make it to the final, but they were a team that had been highly ranked all year,” Bowlsby said. “We’ve been the highest-ranked in the RPI for five or six years in a row. If you get through our league and earn the championship, you’re a team that is almost certainly competitive at the national level.”

The title dearth since the George W. Bush administration and the failure of any program other than Kansas to make it to the season’s final day for more than 30 years makes the Big 12’s regular-season accolades ring a little hollow.

“If you’re going to try to call yourself the best,” Bowlsby said, “you have to win championships.”

Texas Tech, for the first time in school history, has a chance to do just that.

“I’ve been telling people my whole life, I think we can win championships and play on the last night of the season,” Beard said.

Beard’s proven his point correct. Now he can help the Big 12 win the argument that it truly is as good as it and everyone says.

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Kyle Guy’s free throws push Virginia past Auburn and into title game

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MINNEAPOLIS — The confusion hadn’t even been cleared by the time Kyle Guy began to compose himself. While the thousands at U.S. Bank Stadium and millions watching at home tried to make sense of the final 1.6 seconds, Guy was steeling himself for the most important free throws of his life. Maybe the most critical ever in the history of Virginia basketball.

The whistle blew after Guy’s potential game-winning 3 missed the mark, and while it was initially unclear if that was signaling the end of the game or that Auburn’s Samir Doughty had fouled Guy, the Cavaliers junior looked as though he was mourning a loss. Instead, he was preparing to take the fate of a program in his hands and shoulder the weight of history.

“I put my face into my jersey, but that was me focusing,” Guy said. “I just literally told myself that we dream of these moments, and to be able to make one happen was special.”

Guy stepped to the line and swished three-straight free-throws, delivering Virginia into Monday night’s national championship game with a 63-62 win over Auburn as the Cavs continue to survive the NCAA tournament a year after suffering one of its most notorious exits.

“Every round we advance, and every round I say the same thing almost, and it feels a little bit sweeter, a little bit sweeter,” junior Ty Jerome said after his 21-point, six-assist, nine-rebound performance. “But to think this time last year we were starting our spring workouts, and to still be playing at this point in the season with, after tonight, one other team in the whole country on the stage that you dreamed about since you were a little kid, it’s an unreal feeling.

“We’re going to do everything we can to finish the job.”

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Virginia has the opportunity to win its first national title thanks to a former Indiana Mr. Basketball coming through in a moment dripping with tension, crushing in its pressure and enormous in its stakes.

“He’s built for that moment,” Virginia assistant Brad Soderberg said. “He lives for that stuff.”

There’s no one else Virginia would have wanted in that moment rather than the 82.5 percent free-throw shooter who was spent his three years in Charlottesville with a sense of confidence and self-assurance that radiates from him. He lives to define the moment rather than be controlled by it.

There, though, with 0.6 on the clock and his team down by two, Guy had three shots to chart the course of history. A year after 16th-seeded UMBC had shattered their season, Virginia now had blown a late 10-point lead to a five-seed with a national title game spot on the line.

Guy had three tosses to save Virginia.

“I was trying to look at my fiance. I couldn’t find her so I looked at my dad,” Guy said. “I got this. I looked at my future brother-in-law, he started smiling. I just smirked at him. I got this.”

That smirk gave way to two swishes. Tie game.

Then Auburn used a timeout, forcing Guy to contemplate the game-winner that lay before him on the other side of a huddle he ignored.

“I didn’t hear one word anybody said. I didn’t want any part of what they were talking about,” Guy said. “I just wanted to focus. I don’t even know what the plan was if I made it.”

His teammates saw Guy drifting from them, and kept their distance, secure in what his process would yield.

“Try to stay away from Kyle. Let him get his space, get in his own head. Don’t try to hype him up or anything,” Braxton Key said.

With the isolation of the free-throw line looming, Virginia left Guy alone.

“You don’t need to talk to someone like that in that moment,” De’Andre Hunter said. “He knows it’s a lot of pressure. You don’t need to add any more to it.”

With the biggest shot of his life forthcoming, Virginia offered no advice.

“He knew what he needed to do,” Jack Salt said. “He didn’t need me to tell him how to shoot free throws.”

There was nothing to say because Virginia knew what Guy knew.

“I wasn’t settling for two,” he said.

So guy walked back to the line, took a dribble, bent his knees and let the ball loose into history.

Swish.

“He was cold-blooded for that,” Mamadi Diakite said.

A dream delivered.

“To be able to go to the national championship off of that for these guys and coach (Tony) Bennett, I mean, I really don’t have the words,” Guy said. “We all practiced those shots as a kid. They were probably a little bit more spectacular than free throws, but whatever it takes to win.”

After Auburn could find no miracle in that last 0.6, made his way off the the floor and into history, taking a moment as he ran to put his hand to his mouth and blow a kiss toward the crowd. No doubt it hit its mark.

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Scouting Final Four teams: How to beat Michigan State

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NBC Sports spoke with a dozen coaches in the last two days to put together a scouting report for each of the teams in the Final Four. 

The coaches were granted anonymity in exchange for honesty. 

We started with Virginia. Then we gave you Auburn and Texas Tech. So last but not least, Michigan State.

‘CASSIUS IS PEYTON MANNING’

What Michigan State does starts and, more often than not, ends with their all-american point guard Cassius Winston, who has thrown this team on his back and carried them to the Final Four after leading them to Big Ten regular season and tournament titles.

“Cassius Winston is a true point guard. He’s a QB. He is Peyton Manning. They play off of him. They put him in a ton of ball-screens, but they also move him around. They run him off wide pindowns, they put him in flares, they even used him as a screener for the game-winner against Duke. But it all comes back to him.”

“They don’t just screen you once. They’ll run Cassius off a ball-screen and you’ll switch. Then he’ll run off it again, and you switch again. Then they’ll run it a third time, and suddenly you’re 17 feet from the rim and he makes a floater over your big.”

“He’s not big and he’s not all that fast, but he finds a way to get where he wants. He knows how to play.”

“We talked a lot about how much they run in the halfcourt. A lot of wide pindowns, and they’re good at running off those. You can’t let them catch it where they want to. No curls, no catching it where they want to get the ball.”

“They have counters to their counters, and they run their stuff really well.”

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THE TRANSITION GAME

He doesn’t really have the reputation for it nationally, but outside of Roy Williams and North Carolina, there may not be a better coach at teaching the fast break than Tom Izzo. And there is not a better point guard at leading the fast break than Cassius Winston.

“I don’t know if you can run as fast forwards as they can run backwards. They go so fast on about 30 possessions a game. You can’t catch them. They’ll get whatever they want because they’re running wide and Cassius is as good as anyone int he world at getting the ball to their guys where they need it.”

“Their bigs are big, but they will sprint their asses off to get to the rim because they know Cash will find them.”

“The very first thing we talked about was the transition game. Defense to offense. Those hit-ahead passes where they’re trying to score early in the clock, Cash is so good at those. He’s not a jet, but he just keeps coming and coming and coming.”

“They run off of misses. They run off of makes. They got a couple of buckets running off of made free throws against Duke. You’re just playing catchup the entire time. You can’t get back fast enough. You have to make them take it out of the bucket.”

“You cannot let them pass it across halfcourt. You have to make them dribble it across halfcourt. I think you have to press them. Just pick up in the backcourt, pick the ball up as quick as you can, I don’t care who it is. Maybe use the shooter to shadow Winston. Whatever. We even have pressed them sometimes.”

“This will be a key for them against Texas Tech. Their defense does not let you reverse the ball. They take away ball-screens, they push your offense out. Tom is going to have to play higher and wider. Michigan State wants to play in the middle of the floor and Texas Tech makes you play on a side, so the more Michigan State can beat them down the floor – reverse the ball quick, hit a couple drag screens, early actions – then you can beat them.”

REBOUNDING

“You have to be as physical as possible with their bigs. You cannot get pushed around inside. [Nick] Ward and [Xavier] Tillman are huge.”

“They are going to go hard after the offensive glass. They kicked LSU’s ass on the boards. [Aaron] Henry gets there. [Kenny] Goins, too. And you have to be careful sending too many to the offensive glass. They’ll run it on you.”

(Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

THEY’LL LET YOU RUN YOUR STUFF, BUT THEY CAN REALLY GUARD

What Michigan State does defensively is similar to what Virginia tries to do. Where Texas Tech and Auburn are going to get out and pressure, try to take you out of what you want to run, the Spartans will let you run your offense. But they’re not giving up space in the paint, they’re contesting everything and they’re off to the races once they get the rebound.

“They’re a really good defense, but they’re not going to pressure or deny. You are going to get the ball where you want to. You won’t get it into the paint, but we never felt like we couldn’t run our stuff against them.”

“Their positioning off the ball is so good. They let you reverse it, they don’t disrupt you that way. You’ll feel like you can swing it. But they challenge everything in the paint. Watch when they play when guys drive in the lane or get an offensive rebound just how many Michgian State players are making a play on the ball. It’s more than anyone.”

“Their defensive spacing is really, really good. Well-coached. It’s difficult to get a clean look. They’re a great pack defense and a great screen and roll defense. That actually plays into Texas Tech’s hands a little bit, they don’t run a lot of ball-screens.”

“They’re better with Tillman than Ward. Their guys – [Matt McQuaid, Kenny Goins, Winston] – aren’t elite athletes by they can guard.”

Scouting Final Four teams: How to beat Virginia

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NBC Sports spoke with a dozen coaches in the last two days to put together a scouting report for each of the teams in the Final Four. 

The coaches were granted anonymity in exchange for honesty. 

Up first, we have Virginia.

IT ALL STARTS WITH THEIR DEFENSE

Every one knows about Virginia’s defense. They run the Pack-Line, they run it better than anyone else in the country and they’ve been a mainstay in the top five of KenPom’s defensive efficiency rankings over the course of the last six seasons. I asked coaches how they go about beating what has been the best defense in the sport over the course of the last half-decade.

“Everything starts with their defense, because their style of play makes it very difficult for a team that’s used to playing fast if that team can’t play slow as well. It’s hard. Because they force you to play at their pace.”

“The first thing is if you can get a stop and try to get out and score in early, drag situations, kick aheads, single-double pick and rolls. You want to try to score before it’s set. Once you’re in the half court, it really does require a level of toughness offensively to screen them. Run multiple actions on both sides of the floor. Run a pick on single side bump defender because you know he’s going to be in there tagging. Get it to [the helper’s] man.”

“You have to make threes against them. You won’t get a lot at the rim. You won’t get a lot off penetration. You have to create shots with off-ball movement.”

“They usually post-trap. We’ve had more success throwing it in to guys off the block when they are post-trapping. You can only throw it into the post from the high-post. Run some high-low action, it’s harder for them to double that way.”

“Do you have some playmakers in the front court that you can play through? Do you have a great post passer that can handle being double-teamed? Also, if your bigs can shoot, putting shooting in at the five to get Jack Salt in a situation where you know he’s not gong to switch.”

“The other thing is, historically, someone has to have a big game against them. Like Carsen Edwards.”

“Purdue hung with them because they have Carsen. Most teams don’t.”

“Virginia had the blueprint [to stop Purdue] and Carsen went out and individually made some tough plays. If you look at the times people beat them, dudes made plays. Virginia is going to make you make tough, contested shots off the dribble.”

“They can get beat early in a possession in terms of teams being ready to shoot. And shoot with confidence. They’re going to make you catch-and-shoot in the halfcourt. And you have to consistently make shots the whole time. They’ll give you those. It’s what the Pack-Line is designed to do.”

And if worst comes to worst, get every edge you can.

“Stay on the refs. They’re really handsy, bumping, holding, fouling with their lower body, with their hands. They’re not outstanding movers but they teach defense well enough and they have the respect of the refs. People know they’re Virginia.”

THEY RUN TWO TOTALLY DIFFERENT OFFENSES

For years, Tony Bennett and Virginia have been known for running the Blocker-Mover offense that Tony’s dad, Dick Bennett, developed. The Blocker-Mover is an offense that features three “movers” continuously running off of screens set by the two “blockers.” This year, however, Virginia has transitioned into running more Ball-Screen Continuity, which is an offense that relies much more on spacing, three-point shooting and is more effective with smaller lineups.

“Early in the season, they were really into the Blocker-Mover stuff, but not as much later in the year. They come and go with that, but when they run it, you can’t chase pin-downs. That opens up curling off of those screens. It opens up the pocket-pass to the big guy. They can make curl jumpshots. They can pass out if you help, and they’ll kill you with the flares. You have to make them see that you’re chasing them and then go over the screen at the last second.”

“The Ball-Screen Continuity, they’ve gone to that a lot. They don’t come off the first ball-screen looking to attack or shoot. You can go under it, and you cannot switch it. Switching is doable, but you cannot do it early in the shot block. They will be patient and poised as they find the mismatch. They can get a big on a little, get you into foul trouble that way, but the harder part is when they get you with someone bigger on Kyle Guy or Ty Jerome. They’ll make them chase around screens.”

“Both offenses, they mix up what they do. It will seem simple enough, and then suddenly they’re running an action where your tagger is thinking about the role man while Kyle Guy in the weakside corner is flying off a pindown. As simple as it is, the way in which they do it, the intention they have, they almost run it slowly just to try and pick you apart to see where the help is, or where the switch is. They are really, really good at figuring out what you’re doing and taking advantage of it.”

THEY’RE MORE VERSATILE THAN THEY HAVE BEEN IN THE PAST

One of the reasons Bennett has incorporated more Ball-Screen Continuity into his offense is that he has a more versatile and skilled roster than he has had in the past.

“The Ball-Screen Continuity, they’re going to run it hard and put you in multiple actions because of their ability to stretch the floor, especially when Hunter is at the four. When Jay Huff is in there at the five, they’ll four or five guys that can make a three. It creates a different look for them than in the past, when they had big guys like Anthony Gill. I would guess that’s some of the reason why they’re running more Ball-Screen Continuity, so they can spread it a little more on the perimeter.”

“I think Kihei Clark coming in and moving Guy and Jerome off the ball gives them a real threat, playmaking at three positions. They’re more skilled.”

“You can play some zone, a 1-3-1, because you don’t have to guard Kihei. When he drives, he’s driving to pass. If he’s going to beat you, you have to live with it.”

“Ty is so good in ball screens it opens up opportunities for him to play pick-and-roll and not just run Blocker-Mover.”

KYLE GUY IS THE PLAYER TO KEY ON

“De’Andre Hunter is their best player, but we were most worried about Guy because he has game-changing ability. As good as Hunter is, he’s not a hungry scorer. We knew where we would have to guard him — those elbow iso’s 3-4 times a game — and he can shoot it, but we were more concerned with Guy as a cutter. He is relentless and always cutting hard. He is going to get 10 threes off and he can make six or seven, easy. That, more than anything, is the game-changing part.”

“It was Guy for us. Jerome, too. He’s the most versatile of their threats in terms of being able to make a three, floaters and runners. They play off the deep shooting of Guy and Jerome, and as good of a coach as Tony is, those two kids they take and make really difficult, long threes that are hard to defend.”

THE BEST MATCHUP IS? AND THE WORST MATCHUP IS?

“Auburn is the best and worst. The thing about them, as many threes as they shoot, if they don’t shoot the ball well, they’re going to get drilled by UVA. Virginia is going to take care of the ball, they’re not going to open the game up and play frenetic. You’ll miss shots and get grinded.”

“But if they get hot, they’ll shoot 40 threes if they want. UVA will allow them those shots. If you can consistently hurt them fro the outside, you can hang in the game. The way that Auburn plays, they’re tricky and wild, which can win or lose them the game.”