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Joe Boozell | | March 3, 2016

Miami and Virginia PGs show subtle improvement can be a season-changer

  London Perrantes and Angel Rodriguez are fierce competitors for their respective teams.

Virginia and Miami squared off a little more than a week ago, and it almost felt like watching clones of one another run up and down the court in different colored jerseys.

The Hurricanes topped the Cavaliers by three on Feb. 22 in Coral Gables, but their similarities were hard to ignore.  

The teams both feature star shooting guards in Malcolm Brogdon and Sheldon McClellan; dominant interior forces in Anthony Gill and Tonye Jekiri; play at a snail’s pace (Virginia ranks dead last in the country in adjusted tempo; Miami is 301st) while maintaining high efficiency in doing so. Virginia is 10th in adjusted offensive efficiency; Miami is 12th.

That’s all fine, but so what? It’s not the first time we’ve seen two schools from the same conference resemble one another.

But the above factors don’t even mention Virginia and Miami’s most obvious common denominator: their point guards share an eerily similar career trajectory. And one could make the argument that if Angel Rodriguez and London Perrantes performed exactly like they did a year ago, the Hoos and the Canes wouldn’t be ranked inside of the top 25.

  Angel Rodriguez contests a London Perrantes shot in 2015.

It might sound harsh, but in 2014-15, Rodriguez and Perrantes were better point guards in theory than they were in reality. They were inefficient offensive players, and despite logging heavy minutes, their teams generally fared better with them on the bench

*Note: Offensive Rating = Points per 100 possessions a team scores with Player X on the floor
           Team Net Rating = Difference between offensive rating and defensive rating
           Player Net Rating = Difference between offensive rating and defensive rating with Player X on the floor

Player PPG FG % 3FG % APG Offensive Rating Team Net Rating Player Net Rating
Perrantes 6.4 .354 .316 4.6 106.7 23.6 13.6
Rodriguez 11.9 .337 .304 3.9 100.3 7.8 2.0

Compare those numbers to this year, and each guy has improved by leaps and bounds.

Player PPG FG % 3FG % APG Offensive Rating Team Net Rating Player Net Rating
Perrantes 11.3 .452 .509 4.4 123.1 17.4 22.1
Rodriguez 11.8 .429 .311 4.4 112.5 15.3 11.5

Miami lost a few mild contributors in the offseason, and its newcomer that’s made the biggest impact is Kamari Murphy – a versatile forward that has been solid for the Canes, but is certainly no star. In 2015, Miami missed the NCAA tournament. This year, it’s challenging for a high seed.

McClellan, Jekiri and Davon Reed have improved marginally, but Rodriguez’ jump is the most noticeable, and frankly, the most important. The senior floor general scored 19 points on 13 shot attempts in Wednesday's big win over Notre Dame, and his ability to burn defenses from deep or with slithery drives to the basket has made life easier for McClellan and Reed.

Miami head coach Jim Larranaga sung Rodriguez' praises after the Hurricanes' win over Louisville on Saturday, too, and said his senior point guard was the biggest reason why the Hurricanes escaped with a win.

“He [Rodriguez] was absolutely sensational," Larranaga said on Saturday. "He was the best player on the court on both ends. Scoring, dishing, rebounding; his on-ball pressure created a vision for his teammates of how we expect them to play."

Perrantes’ narrative is similar, for the most part. But unlike Miami, Virginia was an excellent team last season, winning 30 games before bowing out to Michigan State in the NCAA tournament.

However, the Hoos lost two major contributors in Justin Anderson and Darion Atkins from last year’s team. So as Rodriguez’ evolution was organic, Perrantes’ was necessary if Virginia wanted to replicate last season’s success. Suffice it to say, he’s answered the bell in a huge way.

Perrantes always had a (warranted) reputation as a clutch shot-maker, but he had a tendency to disappear early on in games. While the scrappy point guard is still as clutch as ever, he’s also now become a consistent third option in a good Virginia offense.

Like Rodriguez, he’s made life infinitely easier for his star teammates.

Brogdon will tell you as much. Their chemistry is one major reason for the Hoos' success.

“Our chemistry has evolved as much as chemistry between two players can," Brogdon said of Perrantes earlier this season. "On the court, we just need eye contact to know what each other is going to do with their next step. For example, when they started full-court pressing us at the end, he throws it right over the top. I don’t have to point, I don’t have to gesture, its just eye contact like ‘you know where to throw it and I know where to be.’ We read each other very well.”

Guys like Grayson Allen and Ben Bentil are widely recognized as the most improved players in college basketball, and rightfully so. They transformed into leading scorers on good teams after averaging single digits in 2014-15.

But Rodriguez and Perrantes have shown that subtle improvements, such as becoming vastly more efficient despite not lighting the box score on fire, for instance, can be just as important to winning.

It’s time to give these two their just due.

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