By Mychal Hunter
What a blow man, what a terrible thing to happen to a team having what can only be described as a magical season. In case you have not heard, it was revealed yesterday that ACC Sixth Man of the Year, De’Andre Hunter, will miss the NCAA tournament to a broken wrist suffered in the ACC Tournament. Hunter was wearing a wrap on his wrist during the conference tournament and apparently tried to play through the injury but apparently it became too much to bear.
If you simply take a look at Hunter’s statistics over the course of the season they won’t exactly jump off the page. His per game averages look pretty pedestrian at 9.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and a helper per game but that is not an accurate reflection of his importance.
So let me count the ways:
He is a one man, zone destroying, high post monster.
If you ask the teams in the ACC that like to play some sort of zone (i.e.: Syracuse and Georgia Tech) the one major reason they fell to Virginia this year twice each, the answer would be Hunter, who averaged 14 points in those four games off the bench. The first Syracuse game was when Hunter really came into his own. Tony Bennett put him at the foul line in the middle of that zone and he made the Orange play him. When the defense finally reacted to his play and collapsed, Kyle Guy started hitting jumpers. They combined for 37 that night. He did the same thing to Georgia Tech two games later and would provide both teams an encore down the road. Fortunately for the Cavs there isn’t a team in their region that plays a significant amount or overly effective zone.
He is Virginia’s best offensive post player.
This is something else you would not know unless you watch the games. Hunter was recruited as a wing but at 6’7 he has the height to play in the post against smaller lineups and the quickness to shake off bigger defenders. He can finish with both hands and gets the ball up on the glass very quickly. If the bigger defender gives him a cushion he is just going to drop in 10 foot jumpers all night long. He doesn’t have a traditional back to the basket game but he can do that as well if Virginia finds a match-up they want to exploit.
He is clutch
I don’t really need to explain this one do I? Let’s go to the tape, Louisville fans can keep scrolling:
Virginia has been one of the healthiest teams in the ACC all year but obviously this could not have come at a worse time, especially as some nitwits continue to question Tony Bennett’s coaching prowess. The good news is that the Hoos are blessed with some pretty good depth. Sophomore forward Mamadi Diakite is a more than serviceable player that averages about 5 points and 3 boards a game and regularly provides some momentum gaining, Sportscenter worthy plays while not being quite the perimeter weapon as Hunter. To be perfectly honest though, perimeter weapons are something Virginia has a great abundance of with Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy and Devon Hall so it really shouldn’t be a problem.
Long story short here, Virginia may have lost a future NBA lottery pick but they still have many options on offense, a quality player to fill in and a Coach that needs to be respected.