Thursday, February 19, 2015

On Virginia Basketball

For those who aren't basketball fans, or ACC fans, or UVA fans, go away. Stop reading. I don't want to hear your bitching about posts that don't interest you.  If this comes down to just between me and three other Wahoos who live and die UVA sports, so be it.
"Uncle" Malcolm Brogdan

UVA Men's Basketball is 24-1, in first place in the ACC and ranked #2 in the country.  This is close on the heels of last year's campaign in which they won both the ACC regular season title and the tournament title, which were followed by a #1 Seed.

The Hoos play a stifling brand of defense known as the "Pack-Line" defense.  Virginia fans have come to appreciate the team's ability not only to shut down other teams offensively, but also to effectively neutralize the efforts of their best players.  This hyper-defensive brand of basketball has created quite a stir in college hoops circles, with some writers suggesting that it is "boring" and "bad for the game."  Anyone who watches UVA play cannot possibly agree with this, as the Hoos games are nothing, if not exciting.

But, I am worried.  Very worried.  I am worried that we--Coach Bennett, the team, and legions of Hoo fans around the country--have gotten all liquored up on our defensive prowess to the point where we have begun to dismiss offense as a necessary and proper part of the game.  One of my correspondents, when i kvetch about this, just posts the number of wins, as if barely beating the likes of Wake Forest is something for the nation's #2 team to measure itself against.  The plain truth of the matter is that while UVA is a great team, probably top 10, unless we figure out a way to score more points, we will not get ourselves over the next hump and into the Final Four.  Not this year at least.

"But CW, one of your most potent offensive weapons got hurt a few games ago and is out for 4-6 weeks.  Aren't you just responding to a wholly foreseeable dip in performance as a result?"

No.  I'm not.  Here's why.  The player in question is Justin Anderson, and he is a force to be reckoned with when playing well.  But before his injury, he was not the offensive force that he can be.  In the ten games leading up to his injury, Anderson scored 11.4 points a game, including 2 against Louisville, 7 against Georgia Tech and 8 against Boston College.  In the FIRST 10 games of the season--which included contests with VCU and Maryland, he scored 15.8 pts per game.

Now that he is gone, our offense has been JUST good enough to beat a few pedestrian teams.  The game we lost--Duke at home--was a collapse of epic proportions that included once again, poor shooting not only by JA but by many of his teammates.  Our team field goal percentage of .460 is 67th in the nation.

So where is all this leading?  It is leading to a suggestion to my fellow Hoo fans that we need to be a little more objective about our team's strengths and weaknesses, that with JA we are a better team, but a team that needs to figure out how to get and to take better shots.  Twitter wars with analysts who say we are boring may be fun, but there is a kernel of truth in what they say, and that truth pertains to our OFFENSIVE style and performance, one that occasionally shows signs of life, but which will not take us to the next level.  


"The Hammer" said...

"pedestrian teams"? Thanks a lot, but I take your point.
The book on UVA is they choke in tournaments. Since the ACC's inception Duke has won (what used to be THE) tournament 19 times, NC 17 times, NCSU 10 times and Georgia Tech 3 times, and they joined the league in '78. Virginia is an original member (1953) and they've won it twice, the second time being 2014. In the NCAA tournament they fair much the same, can't get out of their own way.
I like Virginia, not a fan but no visceral hatred like for Maryland (although I miss them!). But what's not to like? They're everybody's whipping boy.
I hope Virginia can do great things with this team. It's an outstanding defensive squad, and I'd rather play good defense than good offense any day. But they don't have that intangible, a winning tradition. Maybe they can change that this year.

The Conservative Wahoo said...

Hammer, I appreciate your thoughts, and you are spot on. Four years of Ralph and no ACC tourney titles...unreal.

That said, my hope in this piece was to talk my fellow Hoos down from their increasingly cocky place...I think we have a very talented team, with one very, very big flaw right now--and it isn't a winning tradition, it's the ability to get the ball in the net.

"The Hammer" said...

Regular season play and tournament play are two different things. Virginia obviously had a good conference tournament last year, and the NCAA tournament wasn't bad either losing to Mich State, which I thought was the best team. But what do I know apart from the Pack will be damn lucky to get a bid.

PK said...

You're probably right, but I stopped reading (got a little glassy-eyed and moony) when I got to the words "Coach Bennett"...

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