The Virginia Cavaliers are dominating defensively again. It seems like every season the Cavaliers are giving up barely 60 points per game on defense. They win games they “shouldn’t” and frustrate dominating offenses.
The Duke Blue Devils dove into the Virginia’s tremendous defense last Saturday and came up short against the Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers have now won 13 straight games, have a 21-1 record and are 10-0 in the ACC. No team has scored more than 68 points this season against their lockdown defense. The Cavaliers are 3-1 against ranked teams and have lost their lone game on the road against West Virginia. They are first in Division I basketball in points allowed at 52.7 per game and are +16.5 in point differential.
They have forced at least 10 turnovers in 20 games this season and have given up more than nine assists just eight times this season. This shows that many teams struggle to share the ball against this team, and many of the baskets that are scored are isolation baskets.
Offensively, the Cavaliers are lifted by three different guards. Ty Jerome, Devon Hall and Kyle guy lead the way, accounting for 38 of the Cavaliers’ 69.2 points they score each game. No single Cavalier averages over 1.7 turnovers per game on offense.
Virginia has the slowest pace in college basketball. They force you to not only defend for 30 seconds on defense, but they are fine with a team taking 30 seconds to take a contested shot when they are on defense. They are built to wear you down, and they are built that way every season.
Most teams aren’t conditioned to grind out games, and teams with good offenses struggle against the Cavaliers because of their lack of conditioning. When the second half rolls around, teams slowly fall apart while the Cavaliers are consistent and fight on.
Week by week
It seems like each week, the Cavaliers are picked to lose. Many experts see it as a strong offense against the Cavaliers defense.
Duke ended up being a victim of that this past week. The Blue Devils were the home favorite and ended up dropping a game to a suffocating defense. The Blue Devils scored 15 points less than their previous season low offensively, and they did it on their own court.
Duke shot just 26.7 percent from three and turned the ball over 16 times. When Virginia gives you 65 possessions a game and you turn the ball over on nearly a fourth of them, you are going to struggle.
The one struggle with Virginia that causes concern is their lack of rebounding. Being able to control the glass is a big part of winning games in March and April. The Cavaliers got beat on the glass by 13 rebounds against the Blue Devils. They are tied for 313th in Division 1 basketball with 32.5 rebounds per game.
The Cavaliers struggle at rebounding because of how small they are at nearly every position. They start three guards that line up at 6-foot-2, 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-5 and are generally small at every position. Isaiah Wilkins starts at power forward and is the Cavaliers’ leading rebounder, standing just 6-foot-7. Jack Salt is their starting center at 6-foot-10.
The Cavaliers have eight ACC games left to play. As of right now, there aren’t any ranked teams left on their schedule. This season, they are 4-0 against the remaining schedule they have left and have beaten each team by an average of 15 points per game.
The Cavaliers have a very good chance of getting into the ACC tournament at 29-1 and 18-0 in conference play. With stingy defense and timely scoring, the Cavs seem to have found their identity yet again. Their identity looks the exact same year in and year out, and what’s even better is that it works.
Predicting a destination for this team
The Cavaliers have history going against them. Even though many of Tony Bennett’s teams have been excellent, they struggle come tournament time.
In the last four seasons that the Cavaliers have made the NCAA tournament, they have not made a Final Four and have only made one Elite Eight. This team can struggle at times offensively, and barring some deep heroic threes, they would have a few more loses than they do.
I think they finish at 28-2, lose to Duke in the ACC final and lose in the Elite Eight yet again. This team is very good, but the ACC is a gauntlet. It’s tough to make it all the way through.
The NCAA tournament is where absolutely anything happens. Tony Bennett has had better teams that have lost to worse teams. In terms of guessing just how far they go, I’m trusting the historically unpredictable NCAA tournament.
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