ACC Basketball

Justin Anderson to miss 4-6 weeks

(Photo: Photo provided by U.Va. Athletics)

With wins at North Carolina early this week and this Saturday over Louisville, the Virginia Cavaliers just walked away with arguable their two most impressive wins of the season. Yet, they walked out of the latter without their best player.

Junior Justin Anderson broke his hand and will need surgery to repair it. He is expected to be out for four to six weeks. This means best cast scenario he misses the rest of a less-than brutal regular season. Worst case, he’s gone the entire ACC tournament and the first weekend of the Big Dance.

Let’s deal with the best case scenario first.  The Cavaliers have already gone through the toughest stretch of their schedule. There’s no rematch with Notre Dame or North Carolina and no trip to Cameron to face Duke. They have seven straight games against teams that will most likely not make the tournament, the toughest being either a road trip Wednesday to face NC State, a team that has dropped four of five or at home February 16 against Pittsburgh. Even without Anderson, the Cavaliers should be the favorite in all those contests.

The exception is the finale, where they have to travel to Louisville in a rematch with the Cardinals. That could be tough, but at least Virginia has a two-game lead in the loss column over Notre Dame, Louisville, Duke and North Carolina. All those teams still have challenging games remaining on the schedule, so if the Cavs can avoid an upset, then that final game against the Cards could be meaningless and they’ll get Anderson back for the ACC Tournament.

Now to the worst case scenario. If he’s really not going to comeback until after the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, then winning the ACC Regular season crown means everything. The way I see it, even if Virginia falters in the ACC Tournament, if they finish no worse than 28-2 in the regular season in the country’s top conference, then they still get a 1-seed and it will be easier to navigate that first weekend of the Big Dance.

So how does Tony Bennett adjust?

To fill Anderson’s shoes won’t be possible by just one sub. He’s one of the nation’s premier offensive players and was a lock for first-team All-ACC. Averaging 13.9 points per game, he shots 48% from the floor, 50% from downtown and 80% from the free throw line. He rebounds (4.3) and shares the ball (2.1), leading the team in steals, third in blocks.

The man who I think should replace him in the starting lineup is Marial Shayok. Evan Nolte will also get plenty of minutes at the 3-spot, because he offers up more size and averages over seven points per game, but Shayok is a better defender on the wing. Plus, he hits 40% of his threes. He just hasn’t taken a lot of shots (averages around three points per game).

The beauty of this team is how balanced it is on offense. It’s never been about one guy. Anderson just so happened to be the guy who scored the most. It’s not like Tony Bennett runs his offense through his wing man. I expect everyone to shoulder more of the scoring load, although Malcolm Brogdon is the kind of player who could really breakout in Anderson’s absence.

 

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  1. Pingback: The Morning After – ACC Basketball

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