As No. 1 Virginia locked up the ACC regular season crown outright, there’s been plenty of chatter mocking AP voters for not even having the nation’s top team in its preseason poll. First and foremost, that probably tells you all you need to know about the value of preseason polls.
However, those verbal and Twitter jabs are not without warrant; this Cavaliers team was criminally underrated entering the season. But even the media members (raises hand) and ACC basketball fans that were bullish on UVA in 2017-18 likely didn’t see this level of dominance on the horizon. Virginia, which is once again No. 1 in the AP Poll, is in line to grab the NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed.
Part of that whole equation, though, is that no one outside of Charlottesville could have predicted this type of senior season for Devon Hall.
Devon Hall began the season with 55 starts and nearly 2,000 career minutes to his name. This guy was a known commodity — a solid rotation player that could defend his position, and keep the ball moving on offense. For his career, Hall was an average three-point shooter (35.4 3P%) and actually shot under 40 percent from the floor.
Jumps in play were anticipated for sophomore guards Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome; both flashed displays of offensive brilliance as freshmen. More was expected in 2017-18, and so far, those two have delivered. But the jump in Devon Hall’s play is even more noticeable.
It’s not exactly the elusive 50/40/90 club of the NBA, but Hall is the only ACC player shooting at least 45 percent from the floor, 40 percent on three-pointers and 90 percent from the free throw line.
In ACC play, Hall ranks inside the top 20 of the league in terms of effective field goal rate (54.8 eFG%) and true shooting (59 TS%), per KenPom.
He’s done all of this while remaining a ferocious defender — playing the second most minutes for one of the greatest defenses in ACC history — and at times running Virginia’s precise offense. While on the floor this season, Hall has assisted on 19.7 percent of his teammates’ field goals. That’s the second highest assist rate on the team (Jerome, 25.5 percent).
(Yes, at this point, I’m stuffing in as many horrible puns as humanly possible. I would apologize, but I’m shameless when it comes to dad humor.)
Over the last two seasons, Hall’s most-used possessions types are spot-ups and coming off screens. As a junior in 2016-17, Hall was a solid shooter on spot-ups and off screens; this season, however, he’s taken that efficiency to a much higher level. The results are impressive.
|Season||Spot-up FG%||Spot-up PPP||Off-screen FG%||Off-screen PPP|
|2016-17||35.2 FG%||0.89||48.1 FG%||1.00|
|2017-18||37.8 FG%||1.04||53.6 FG%||1.40|
*Numbers provided by Synergy Sports
By this point, we all know about the importance of off-ball screens in Virginia’s offense. According to Synergy Sports, 18 percent of UVA’s possessions this season (No. 1 in the nation) have been used coming off screens — pindowns and flares, mostly. The Cavaliers have scored 352 points off screens this season, which ranks second in Division I, per Synergy.
In terms of volume, Kyle Guy tops the team in points (155) and number of possessions (144). Devon Hall, however, has been more efficient. Hall’s 1.4 points per possession off of screens (71.4 eFG%) is No. 1 in the nation. This opens up so much stuff for Guy off the ball; those two cutting and curling and splitting around one another is a devil to guard.
The ACC’s Most Improved Player?
Oh, boy. Within the ACC, the competition for this award is stiff. There are plenty of players you could hypothetically build a case for, including Doral Moore of Wake Forest and Devon Hall. At this point, though, one has to think that North Carolina’s Luke Maye has all but sewn this honor up — as he’s risen from role player to All-American candidate.
Hall can take solace. Somehow I don’t think he will be too disappointed on missing this award if UVA is able to make a Final Four run. Plus, a first team All-ACC selection wouldn’t hurt, either, and that could absolutely be in his future, too.
Until then, let the not-so-subtle Twitter jabs and godawful puns (raises hand) continue to flow.