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As you probably have heard by now, Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter will miss the NCAA tournament due to a broken wrist.
Hunter was a big part of the Cavaliers and was regarded by most as the top NBA prospect on the team. He averaged 9.2 points and 3.5 rebounds off of the bench this season and won the ACC’s Sixth Man of the Year Award, but how much will his absence affect Virginia’s national championship chances? And should you take a second look at how far you have Virginia advancing in your bracket?
So sure, 9.2 points a game doesn’t sound like a future NBA All-Star, but Hunter was consistently one of Virginia’s top scorers behind stars Kyle Guy and Devon Hall. Without Hunter, Virginia would surely have lost more than two games this season.
In Virginia’s first loss against future five seed West Virginia, Guy and Hall stepped into their familiar roles of offensive engineers, scoring 18 and 19 while the other three starters struggled, combining for just 11 points. This situation was a familiar one for coach Tony Bennett, Guy and Hall in double figures while everyone else took a back seat in terms of offensive production. What arguably led to this loss was Hunter’s poor play.
Hunter was unable to produce during his time on the floor, scoring just three points and failing to covert on a single field goal. He was the player who UVA relied on to bring some scoring and energy off of the bench and without that, Virginia took its first loss of the season.
Guy and Hall are very consistent in putting up points, but sometimes they struggle and the Cavaliers need help off their bench. Hunter is that guy.
In Virginia’s next and last loss of the season to future eight seed Virginia Tech, Guy and Hall struggled all game, hitting five shots apiece and shooting a combined 10-of-33 from the field.
Hunter matched their five made field goals on eight attempts, scoring 14 points and helped keep the game close until it went to overtime, where the Cavaliers ultimately fell 61-60. Without Hunter, this game could have easily been a double-digit loss. It’s very possible to beat Virginia when Guy and Hall are off of their games, but Hunter is the one you would have to battle through to get the win.
Sure, Hunter has shown he’s a great compliment piece, but he also had the ability to take over games by himself.
Last month against future six seed Miami, Hunter went off for a game-high 22 points. Guy and Hall allowed the red-hot Hunter to take over as he played an unusually high 30 minutes, shooting 50 percent from the field as well as three-point land.
Hunter is a skilled guard who is full of momentum plays like this dunk in Miami, and I'm sure we all know March is all about momentum.
So to answer your question, you should take a second look at your bracket and how far you have Virginia going.
Most have Virginia advancing to at least to the Sweet 16, where the Cavaliers could possibly take on Arizona or Kentucky. Both of these teams are hotter than a black leather car seat in July, winning their respective conference tournaments and easily could take down Virginia, even if it had Hunter.
While that matchup in the Sweet 16 is obviously the most frightening, a team like Tennessee or Cincinnati could give Virginia trouble as well. If Guy or Hall struggles shooting the ball, Virginia doesn’t have anyone else to bring offensive production or energy from the bench and it could be curtains for Virginia.
If you really want to show your friends or your office who’s boss, or if you want to shut up that annoying brother-in-law who thinks he’s Joe Lunardi, please take a second look at Virginia in your bracket