After their first season without an NCAA tournament berth since 2013, the Virginia Cavaliers are expected to return seven scholarship players: Kihei Clark, Reece Beekman, Armaan Franklin, Jayden Gardner, Kadin Shedrick, Francisco Caffaro and Taine Murray.
In this series of season reviews, we’ll look at each player’s performance this year and the position of each of them. In the end, we’ll wrap up by discussing the expectations for each player in the upcoming season.
Last time we focused on the East Carolina transfer Jayden Gardner. This week, we’ll see winger Armaan Franklin, who finished second on the team in scoring in his first season in Virginia amid an inaugural year of ups and downs.
Virginia brought in Armaan Franklin to give the team a scoring spark on the wing after an exodus of elite offensive talent — Jay Huff, Sam Hauser and Trey Murphy — last offseason. The Indiana transfer ended up doing just that, finishing second on the team in scoring and averaging 11.1 points.
However, for fans who looked at Armaan’s sophomore success rate of 42.4% and expected a sharpshooter, last year was a disappointment as Franklin’s three-point percentage dropped to just 29, 6%, well below the NCAA average.
Armaan’s struggles of three overshadowed a season in which he took a step forward in every other aspect of basketball scoring. According to Hoop-Math, Armaan converted 58% of his shots into the hoop, a better percentage than courtmates Kihei Clark and Reece Beekman, as well as center Francisco Caffaro. This is despite suffering a foot injury during the second half of the season, which has seen Franklin take just two hoop shots in his last 10 games.
Over the course of the year, he also developed a very capable midrange game, taking down 46% of his 258 midrange jumpers, for Hoop-Math. Franklin became adept at navigating movement-blocking pin-downs with one or two dribbles to create clean looks for himself in that area as the season progressed.
The midsize jumpers were Armaan’s bread and butter all year round, especially in the clutch, where their solid performance flew a little under the radar. While most players see their efficiency decrease in high-pressure situations, Franklin hit 43% on time-critical attempts (situations in the final 5 minutes where the score is within 5 points), including 6 out of 9 on two-point attempts. . Matthew Cleveland’s miraculous three-point aim also robbed Armaan of his defining moment – a midrange transition that gave the ‘Hoos a two-point lead with one second remaining against the State of Florida last night.
Armaan also played a solid defense for Virginia all season, especially after he got used to the pack line. His style isn’t as aggressive as Kihei’s ball pressing or Reece’s steals. But the ‘Hoos were three points better for 100 possessions with Franklin on the ground.
All the little things, though, went unnoticed compared to the elephant in the room: Armaan’s sporadic three-pointer. He could be a good player next season, replicating his score inside the arc and continuing to play well on defense. he can be a great player if he finally finds that three-point strike that was so lethal in his second season.
Yes, sometimes it really is that simple. The most obvious improvement for Armaan to make next season is to simply return to his second form of three, when he hit 42.4% at four attempts per game.
The season-to-season variation he experienced is one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen in college basketball. Players don’t go from high-volume snipers to sub-par high-volume snipers without some sort of weird extenuating circumstance, but that’s exactly what happened with Armaan.
I’m not sure he’ll get back to that 42.4% clip, but there’s certainly reason to believe that Armaan is a better three-pointer than he showed last year. Franklin has earned a reputation for being a binge or starvation shooter (the kind of guy who is 1-7 or 4-6 of three), and the data from his second season in Indiana confirms that conclusion: that year, after making a three, Armaan made his next three 58% of the time; after a mistake, he got only 39% right.
A similar, but less pronounced, trend emerged this year in Virginia – after landing a kick anywhere on the ground, Armaan hit 42% on his next field goal attempt; that number dropped to just 36% after a failure. Maybe he was just in a season one slump.
If last year’s performance was really just an aberration from a slump, the final two games of the season give reason to believe Armaan may be standing out. He combined to make 10 of 18 three-point attempts (56%), setting season records for all three points scored and all three points attempted in a two-game window.
If Franklin turns the corner next season, we’ll look back on his performance against North Texas at the NIT as a turning point: Armaan spilled the last 8 points for the ‘Hoos in regulation and then the first 9 points for the ‘ Hoos in overtime, almost single-handedly wishing them a 71-69 win.
To be sure, the jumper isn’t the only thing Armaan can improve this offseason. His handling of the ball and creating for others are two other areas of growth – but catching his shot is orders of magnitude more important than that. Virginia has players who can break a defense and players who can create the dribble. Hole in the roster is a reliable wing shooter, which is why Armaan’s growth in this area is so crucial to this team’s prospects next season.
If Virginia returns to the ACC this season, Armaan’s improvement as a three-point shooter will be one of the main reasons.