If you are aware of Virginia guard Kyle Guy, chances are it’s because of the man-bun. Guy’s tonsorial choice has made him the target of opposing fans and an object of fascination on social media – someone has started a Twitter account for his top knot – but he’s become far more than that for the Cavaliers.
“He is pretty tiny,” Virginia center Jack Salt said. “But he can shoot very well.”
Against Pitt in the second round of the ACC tournament Wednesday night, the 6-foot-3 Guy tied his career high by scoring a team-high 20 in the Cavaliers’ 73-65 second-round win, moving Virginia on to play third-seeded Notre Dame Thursday night at the Barclays Center. He also spent much of the game shadowing Pitt guard Cameron Johnson, to whom Guy gave up five inches and about 40 pounds.
Guy made seven of 12 shots from the field, including a 4-for-6 effort from beyond the 3-point arc. Guy didn’t even make the ACC’s all-freshman team, but if the Cavaliers claim their third ACC championship or make a deep run into the NCAA tournament, chances are he’ll be a big part of it.
When he plays defense to coach Tony Bennett’s standards and is allowed on the court, he can be, simply, one of the most effective offensive weapons in the conference. With his 3-point numbers against Pitt, Guy is now 50-for-98 (51 percent) for the season on 3-point shots. Dating back to the 1992-93 season – the reach of the website sports-reference.com – only one ACC player has finished a season shooting 50 percent or better with that many 3-point attempts.
He is coming on fast. He came into the game averaging 7.7 points and 17.8 minutes per game. (Georgia Tech held him to six points and 0-for-4 shooting from 3-point range in the Cavaliers’ win Jan. 21.) But in the past four games, the last three of which he’s started, Guy has dropped 19, 17, 6 and 20 points while averaging 29.3 minutes and making 16 of 25 3-point tries.
“Even though he’s not real big, he’s got great legs and lift on his shots,” Pitt coach Kevin Stallings said. “He elevates and he can shoot with his body not all the way turned and not all the way squared up and still shoot accurately.”
Wednesday, Pitt had worked what was once a nine-point Virginia lead down to two midway in the second half. Guy knocked down a 3-pointer to push the lead to five, 49-44, and Pitt never got closer after that.
“I knew that we needed a bucket, but it wasn’t like, We need a bucket so let me shoot it no matter what,” Guy said. “I didn’t even think that shot was going in, to be completely honest. Thank God it did.”
Guy’s confidence is unusual for a freshman, perhaps not unusual for a player who was Indiana’s Mr. Basketball last year and a McDonald’s All-American. And certainly not unusual for someone who’s O.K. being the object of taunts for his man-bun. Guy wore his hair short in high school, but took on a dare from his personal trainer to grow out his hair. When he got to Virginia, he wanted something different and the top-knot took its form. The most clever taunt he’s heard?
“Someone asked me if my mom cut my hair,” said Guy, an insult that suggests that either he held back on sharing saltier barbs or that ACC student sections need to up their game.
If the Cavaliers, who lead the country in defensive efficiency in KenPom, can get consistent 3-point scoring from Guy, there aren’t many teams that can overcome that combination of firepower and defensive grind. In the past four seasons – during which Bennett and the Cavaliers have risen to power in the ACC – Virginia is 23-3 when it knocks in nine 3-pointers or more in a game, including Tuesday.
Virginia will look to Guy to do his part.
“He has confidence in his game,” guard London Perrantes said. “I think we all have confidence in his game.”