The Virginia Cavaliers men’s basketball team suffered its first loss of the 2023-2024 season in ugly fashion to the Wisconsin Badgers, 65-41. With the 24-point defeat, we have five takeaways for the ‘Hoos moving forward.
UVA gets blown out on the interior again
Well then. That was ugly. Wisconsin grabbed 20 offensive rebounds and scored 30 points in the paint against the ‘Hoos, and that really only begins to explain how much Virginia got absolutely schooled on the interior against the Badgers.
Steven Crowl scored 15 points and corralled 10 rebounds (four on offense) as he bullied Blake Buchanan, Jake Groves, Jordan Minor, and whoever else he matched up against. After Buchanan held his own against Florida despite giving up some offensive rebounds, the true freshman center got exposed against Wisconsin, and Groves was worse.
The defensive boards aren’t even the biggest concern — Wisconsin only scored 12 second chance points relative to UVA’s five on three offensive rebounds. It’s coping with players who can create offense around the basket and teams who force Virginia’s bigs to hedge, recover, and navigate the perimeter before throwing it inside. Even with an elite on-ball and help defender in Ryan Dunn (who had five blocks and two steals vs the Badgers) at the four, who plays the five is still an issue.
While this isn’t necessarily shocking — resting all hopes of containing a 7’0” post scorer on a true freshman from Idaho is probably a bit naive — it has officially identified that interior defense is UVA’s most significant weakness. Buchanan’s inability to hang reveals that the Wahoo coaching staff needs to go back to the drawing board schematically to find ways to limit the damage when they face post threats.
Reece Beekman (is the only one who) steps up
Beekman scored 17, assisted seven, added two steals, and shot 6-12 from the floor, 2-3 from deep, and 3-3 from the line against Wisconsin. He was UVA’s lone double digit point scorer. After a lackluster first half when he scored only five on 1-5 shooting, he stepped it up in the second half as a scorer and gave Virginia enough of a spark to pull within five points with just under 13 minutes remaining.
But, after that point, Wisconsin outscored the ‘Hoos 25-6.
Beekman remains a very good basketball player and the guy most responsible for the success that the Cavaliers have this season. He stepped up when his team was up against it, and that deserves recognition.
Virginia lacks a legit secondary creator
As a continuation of that takeaway, though, Beekman was the only guy who produced offense in this game. Isaac McKneely was solid in his return (and while probably still dealing with some ankle pain) with nine points on 3-7 shooting (1-1 from three). But Wisconsin also pressed out to him and limited him to that lone three-point attempt.
Beyond that, offensively, nobody else succeeded in creating offense for UVA against Wisconsin. Only five players scored, and that included Jake Groves (1-7 shooting) and Andrew Rohde (2-6). Rohde added three assists, which was nice. But Beekman was the only player who actually successfully initiated the Virginia offense.
Dante Harris, for instance, shot 0-3, turned the ball over twice, and didn’t have even one assist. This is where Kihei Clark — for as divisive of a player as he was — was really valuable in providing UVA another guard who could create shots for himself and others. The ‘Hoos also simply don’t have any offensive post presence. Groves can be a stretch option, but that’s obviously far less consistent as its reliant on others providing him the open looks and him knocking them down.
Long story short, how Virginia looks to generate offense beyond Beekman will be a key determining factor for how good this team can be by the end of the year.
We miss you, Kadin Shedrick
The world of college athletics today is such that it’s silly and unnecessary to obsess about what could’ve been if this player or that player hadn’t transferred away. That’s just college sports, and college basketball especially. We’ll never truly know what went on behind the scenes between players and coaches, and speculating about who was at fault or what could’ve been is typically unproductive.
Now, let me just this one time say that whew buddy it sure would be nice for this team to have Kadin Shedrick. He was very inconsistent in his time in Charlottesville, and in the end the fit probably wasn’t there in this program. Yet after his 27-point, seven rebound performance for Texas against Louisville including three steals and a block and UVA’s major issues guarding the paint, it’s impossible to not wonder about what could’ve been.
Yes it’s silly, and this isn’t meant as a criticism of the coaching staff for not retaining Shedrick or of him for leaving. This is merely an acknowledgement that UVA would be a far better team with him playing to his potential for them this season.
This how it feels to have a young team that is hoping to peak for March
In the 2022-2023 season, Virginia peaked in November and then the wheels fell off in February and March because of how they brought back so many experienced players who’d played together. Eventually, their low ceiling was exposed once the rest of college basketball caught up.
This UVA team is much the polar opposite of that with only three rotational returners and a ton of new pieces. The Florida win might’ve set some unrealistic expectations for how reliable and consistent this young and unproven group would be this early in the season.
A 24-point loss is bad. And Wisconsin isn’t a special team, so that makes it worse. But this is not an indictment of how good UVA can be this season, more a reality check that there is going to need to be plenty of improvement for them to hit the potential they do have,