Virginia, coached by Tony Bennett, boasts the best defensive efficiency in the NCAA at an adjusted 84.1 points per 100 possessions. Overall the Cavaliers are the third ranked team in KenPom, and are much better offensively than most give them credit for.
As the slogan “Embrace The Pace” would indicate, Virginia is the slowest team in the nation at 59.9 possessions per game. Since most folks (and a lot of the media too) equate a low or moderate points per game amount to a bad offense, it might come as a shock to many that UVA is also the 33rd most efficient team on offense in the nation too.
They simply prefer to make the defense work through the early part of the shot clock to bring the game down to a tempo that the staff feels is suitable to maximizing win exepctancy.
The Packline Defense that Virginia runs was invented and revolutionized by Tony’s father Dick Bennett at Washington State. The defense thrives on limiting and preventing penetration to the middle of the court that will eventually result in a long two, a turnover, or a contested three pointer.
This has paid off, as the Cavaliers have won at least 20 games in 6 straight seasons, including two 30 win seasons. Virginia appears headed for yet another one or two seed in the NCAA Tournament, which would be the fourth such seed in the past six years.
While many people find the style that Virginia plays to be “boring” or “grating”, I very much admire and appreciate how the team buys into the system and executes nearly flawlessly night in and night out.
Obviously I do not enjoy watching it when Wake Forest plays Virginia, and that is what will transpire tonight.
The Cavaliers have won 9 straight games since its only loss of the season to West Virginia on December 5th. They are led in scoring by sophomore (and man-bunless) guard Kyle Guy at 15.2 PPG, and shoots 43% from behind the three-point line (on 117 attempts). Ty Jerome and Devon Hall also are more than capable of hitting the three-ball, shooting 43% and 47% respectively.
The Deacs are looking to snap a four game losing streak, the most recent coming to N.C. State in Raleigh on Thursday night where Wake led 63-61 at the 4:30 mark before allowing the Pack to score the final 11 points of the game to win 72-63. This is the third time in the past six games that Wake has gone scoreless in the final four minutes after holding a lead or being with 2 points of a team.
I do not believe this is a good match-up at all for the Deacs, who, as we all know, have struggled immensely against “defending the three” this season. A lot of this is due to a height disadvantage with the guards, but it also does not help at all when half the attempts are completely unguarded.
That being said I think Wake might surprise us all a bit tonight.
If Wake can weather the initial shock that comes from playing against an extremely disciplined defense and work the offense to the best of its ability then there eventually be a good look or two available.
KenPom has UVA winning this one 67-57, and Vegas also has the game at 9.5 points. I am guessing that many would expect this line to be a bit larger than it is, but Wake Forest has been pretty good at home this season, especially as of late.
Overall I think Wake will keep it closer than most people think and it will be a one or two possession game at the under-eight timeout. The experience and talent of UVA will eventually come out and the Cavs will win by 8-10 points as the experts suggest.