UVA freshman heating up at the right time


One of the best freshmen in the ACC is more than just a unique haircut.

Yes, when you watch Kyle Guy play, the first thing you notice is the man-bun. It is hard to miss; however, Virginia’s star freshman has the game to back up the hairdo.

Guy is deadly at launching moonball three-pointers off of the catch — an ideal attribute for Virginia’s offense. The Cavaliers use a lot of circle motion sets that get perimeter players flowing into actions. The rookie wing has yet to complete one full season of college ball, but he is already deft at moving without the rock, which he complements with a lightning-quick trigger. Let your guard down for a second, and he is flying off a pindown screen, looking for a three-ball.

The freshman is also clever at running off flare screens — another critical element in Virginia’s system. According to Synergy Sports, Guy ranks 12th in the ACC in offensive efficiency on catch-and-shoots: 1.33 points per possession on 47.3 percent shooting. For UVA to hit its ceiling on the offensive side of the floor, the Cavaliers need Guy to hit shots. Virginia plays at the slowest adjusted pace in Division I basketball; per KenPom.com, the Cavaliers average fewer than 60 possessions per game — one of only two teams in America that can make that claim.

Over the course of three consecutive losses to Duke, North Carolina and Miami, Guy played a total of 26 minutes and shot just 10 percent from the field. This slump coincided with London Perrantes cooling off, too. Not coincidentally, Virginia sputtered. It does not matter how good the defense is; if UVA is not hitting shots, and runs into another efficient offense — like Duke — then the math is stacked up against the Cavaliers.

However, starting with the win at NC State, Guy has returned to form. In the victories over the Wolfpack and North Carolina, Guy combined for 36 points on 24 field-goal attempts; he went 5-of-7 from deep in both games. For the season, he ranks No. 7 nationally in three-point percentage (50.6 percent).

Only 7.3 percent of Virginia’s possessions result in a post-up or a pass to a roll man out of a pick-and-roll, per Synergy Sports; a season ago this number was closer to 14 percent, thanks to Anthony Gill. The dismissal of Austin Nichols, and the departure of Gill, have forced the Cavaliers to play inside-out more than ever before.

A much larger emphasis has been placed on the team’s spot-up game. According to Synergy, 23.2 percent of Virginia’s possessions are of the spot-up variety, which is an increase over last season (21.2 percent). Without a low-post hub in the middle, UVA is forced to play more side-to-side action; it is less north-south. Guy ranks in the 99th percentile nationally in points per possession on spot-ups — 1.45, which is also tops in the ACC. The freshman has made 51.1 percent of his spot-up attempts this season and has turned the ball over a comically low two percent of the time.

Virginia has a lot of basketball ahead of it this season, but no matter how 2017 shakes out, the Cavaliers’ fanbase can be comfortable knowing that when Perrantes finishes his eligibility, the team’s offense will transition peacefully to Guy and fellow freshman guard Ty Jerome.