The Wake Forest Demon Deacons (11-12, 2-7 in the ACC),coming off of a well-fought 87-76 defeat at the hands of the N.C. State Wolfpack on Saturday afternoon, head to Charlottesville, Va. to take on the very underrated Virginia Cavaliers (18-4, 5-3 in the ACC) on Wednesday night at 7:30 in John Paul Jones Arena.
The Cavaliers are coming off of a heartbreaking loss in to Florida State in Tallahassee by a score of 58-55. I call the Wahoos "underrated" because despite their 18 wins already (and 19th ranking in KenPom), they are getting very little respect in the national scene. The ACC has finally come around to them because head coach Tony Bennett and NPOY contender Mike Scott are forcing the conference to take note.
The famed packline defense that Coach Bennett learned from his father Dick Bennett at Washington State has brought nearly overnight success to rejuvenate a fan base that has longed for the days of Ralph Sampson since the '80's. Mike Scott is not Ralph Sampson, but he may be closer to him than many think he is. Scott, the 6'8 senior from Chesapeake, VA has quietly put together one of the most efficient seasons in recent history in the ACC.
He is averaging a modest 17 points and 8 rebounds a game, which at face value is not overly impressive. It is not until you realize that Virginia plays the 5th slowest game in all of the NCAA. When you compare those numbers in terms of efficiency to Harrison Barnes, or any of the other "marquee" names in the conference, nobody can touch the super senior in Scott.
Click through the jump to see a detailed statistical analysis of Virginia, and what Wake Forest has to do to have a shot at pulling the upset over UVA.
First of all, I just want to point out that over the past week or so I have seen through various mediums of communication that the Wake Forest fan base believes this is a prime game for an upset. This is a conflicting statement to me personally. Due to the tempo that UVA runs, the final score will likely not be as big as some people expect. I'll go ahead and give away my prediction here: I'm taking the Wahoos by 15 (64-49). Most people would not bat an eye at this score given the state of the programs of the two current teams, and unless if you take the time to sit down and watch it. I do not think this game will be even remotely close though.
I have certainly been wrong before, but as I go through the stats, it should become clear why I do not think Wake Forest has a very good chance to win this game. Here's a hint...almost everything points to Mike Scott.
|Off. Reb. %:||31.7||24.4||32.3|
|Defensive Fingerprint:||Mostly Man|
|Point Distribution (% of total points)|
|Strength of Schedule|
Four Factors of Virginia
To put it in a nutshell, UVA is slightly above average offensively in three of the four factors offensively (excluding offensive rebounding where they are below average), but they are absolutely incredible in three out of the four factors defensively. This is even with adjusted rates, so for those of you that thiit is exclusively due to their tempo....it isn't.
- Virginia comes in at a 105.9 offensive efficiency (or 1.059 points per possession). That isn't fantastic, but when you have a defense as good as Coach Bennett's, it becomes a little more ok.
- Offensively, the Cavaliers are shooting 51.3% (eFG). They rely fairly evenly between the inside and outside shot, and have good shooters from both realms. Joe Harris and Mike Scott have done most of the damage inside, especially since the injury of Assane Sene, who unfortunately had his career cut short by an injury five games ago. Sammy Zeglinski has been a somewhat reliable threat from the outside (36%), and Joe Harris has has perhaps shown that last year's 41% shooting from behind the arc was not an outlier.
- UVA does a pretty good job protecting the ball at 19.1%, which is under the national average by a solid 1%. Jontel Evans and Scott are the only players on the team averaging over 2 turnovers a game (2.5 and 2.0 respectively). Obviously those numbers are affected by tempo since they are raw instead of tempo-based.
- If there is an area of concern for this team it is their offensive rebounding numbers. They rank 199th in the country at 31.7% OR%. Scott is the only player that is "ranked" according to KenPom in this stat and he is at a modest 169th place @ 11.7%. The offensive rebounding numbers do take a hit because of the propensity for the Cavaliers to get back on defense to prevent easy transition baskets. In the end the low numbers are probably offset by the lack of layups the other team gets throughout the course of the game.
- Finally, the Hoos do an above average job on the offensive end of getting to the free throw line. They rank 100th in the NCAA at 39.3 FTA/FGA. The good news for Coach Bennett is that they are shooting 73% from the line. This has allowed them to draw nearly 22% of their points from the FT line this year. They have struggled getting to the line in the ACC (26%), which could be a cause for concern as they take on the big dogs (and it did hurt them against Duke in a loss at Cameron @ 14.8%).
Now on the fun stuff---the defense!!!!!
- Overall, UVA ranks 9th in the country according to KenPom and his adjusted defensive efficiency at 86.3 (or .863 points per possession. If you do that math according to UVA's average tempo (60.2 possessions per game), that comes out to around 52 points per game (you see why I am a little concerned about our chances at JPJ arena tonight).
- The Fightin' Scotts have limited their opponents on the year to an adjusted 43.8% (eFG). Two times this year that number has been under 30% (South Carolina St., and Drexel), and three other times it has been under 40% (Georgia Tech, Green Bay, and Maryland Eastern Shore). In case you were wondering, the worst an ACC opponent has been held in eFG% (which keep in mind weights 3's appropriately) was Miami @ 40.2% from the field (eFG). Those are pretty damn good numbers, and it comes out to 17th in the NCAA and 2nd in the ACC (FSU).
- At face value, the fairly low turnover rate would surprise you (21.9%, 103rd in the country), until you remember that they play the Packline Defense, which stresses collapsing in the middle and forcing the offense to take time and eventually a bad shot towards the end of the shot clock. As our beloved Joshua R wrote in his blog The Mikan Drill earlier this year:
Tony Bennett’s teams have been very strong defensively, despite a lack of athletic wings and dominant shotblockers in the majority of the past 5+ years. Bennett relies on the packline defense to compensate for his teams weaknesses, which is a man to man defense with a few specific principles. The defense will put heavy pressure on the ball when it is beyond the three point line but the help defense will sag below the three point line, taking away dribble penetration.
- Another strength of the defense is the lack of offensive rebounding opportunities for the opposing team. UVA ranks 5th in the country here at 24.4% ORA. Obviously this is also not a strength for us, so that means we must shoot a high percentage to stick around in this game. Otherwise it could ugly early.
- Finally, UVA does a great job of not fouling. This takes time to install into the system and the players, because one would think with the collapse and the close outs on the 3-pointers an undisciplined player might get a little overly aggressive. It makes sense though because there are not a lot of inside opportunities in the middle of the paint. This takes away a lot of fouling opportunities and forces a lot of 3-point shots.
- The past two years were Tony Bennett's worst defensively since he became a head coach and that brought with it questions as to whether or not the Packline Defense would work in the ACC. In 2010 (Bennett's first year), UVA ranked 9th in conference play in defensive efficiency at 103.9 ppp. Last year the Cavaliers ranked 7th in conference play at 100.8 ppp. Finally, this year, UVA ranks 3rd in conference play 90.9 ppp. One might begin to get a suspicion that these numbers are coming down because the players have gotten a feel for the system and are beginning to thrive in it. It could also be because there are more defensive minded teams (and atrocious offensive teams as well) in the ACC this year. More time will tell and give evidence to support or disprove whether or not the PD will be an effective defense in the long term. It is clearly working this year though for Coach Bennett and UVA.
Now, let’s briefly discuss how to beat the packline defense. As we talked about above, the three point line is an area on the court where offenses can find open shots. Also, since the defense is often utilized to mask less athletic defenders on the perimeter, teams can find space to drive if they move the ball. One area that is often open is the baseline if the defense makes a mistake, as a principle of the packline defense is to deny the baseline. If a defender does not take away the baseline (as we see in the first clip below), the defense is not set up to be in position to help.When the packline defense is not working well, teams will be able to get to the rim easily without much resistance from the defense. It starts with a lack of ball pressure, allowing the ball handler to put some space between himself and his defender to break the defense down off the dribble. The help will be out of position, either due to the position of the ball or a mistake in rotation. The follwoing video shows a few breakdowns of the packline defense that UVA suffered against Michigan, which allowed penetration to the rim.
This is a great "primer" on how to attack the PD (i.e. go to the basket and attack the rim if they give it to you), yet attacking the rim is clearly not something that we do very well. Tony Chennault tries to get to the rim whenever he can, but his finishing has been subpar to say the least. CJ attacked the rim with a lot more vigor last year, and the same goes for Travis. So we either attack the rim and make the layups when we get there, or we have to hit the 3's that we have been missing for most of the year (and hope we didn't run out of them against State).
I would strongly encourage anybody that wants to read up and watch some clips on the Packline Defense to head over to The Mikan Drill to see the breakdown that Joshua has set up. If you watch any one of those then you will see the rotation, communication, and effectiveness of the defense at its core. There are essentially no post touches, no drive-ins, and long 3's are the only shots that are available when performed correctly.
Actually, if you want to learn about basketball in general then I would highly recommend his blog because it is one of the best ones out there and the content may be pay-to-view shortly if he keeps it up at his current level.
Vegas and KenPom both have this game from 16-18 points in favor of UVA and an O/U of 125-128. If I were a betting man then I would take the Deacs on yet another backdoor cover and the under. Wake has had trouble scoring all year and our sets have been less than stellar. If we throw a clunker of a game against UVA like we've had this year a couple of times then it could be historically bad. They have already limited teams to 35 points, 38 points (twice), and several low 40 outputs on the year.
Once again, I don't mean to be a negative person, because I am usually the positive one (or at least the realistic one). I just don't see this being a game that we match up very well in. Even if we find a way to get by the defense and are firing on all cylinders, there is the (not so) little problem of Mike Scott and who we will put on him. I think Nikita will get the first shot at him and we will switch defenders on him all night.
To be honest, I am pretty excited about this game because we get to see one of the best defensive minds and teams in all of basketball in Tony Bennett, and see how Jeff Bzdelik and our guys step up. It is a litmus test of sorts and one that I am eager to see how we stand against it.
I hope this was a useful article, and everybody enjoys the game to at least some extent!