“I don’t think it takes a basketball fan to look at this year’s Virginia team and say it isn’t what it was,” said Jay Bilas, ESPN’s senior college basketball analyst who worked for a handful of Cavaliers games made color comments for the season.
The recent fall left Virginia (15-6, 11-4) in second place in the ACC, two games behind Florida State in the losing column after the Cavaliers were on track to claim number 1 in the ACC tournament achieve by winning their first seven conference games.
Virginia has also been shown to cover up school dressing up deficiencies in the lower half of the overall standings, including two games against Notre Dame and one each against Wake Forest and Boston College, which ranks 1-9 in the ACC and is different from it separates former coach Jim Christian.
Virginia is 1-3 against senior opponents, including a 98-75 drubbing by Gonzaga No. 1 in Fort Worth. Clemson, then No. 12, is the only senior opponent Virginia has beaten this season. The Tigers lost three of the next four and dropped out of the Associated Press top 25.
“We need to get gritty, solid, tougher and only slightly more incremental in every way,” said Tony Bennett, Cavaliers coach. “I don’t have an exact perfect answer and I say, ‘Well, we have to get better at it.’ I think it depends on the insult that comes and goes. We keep working on it, but I think you cannot defensively allow the flaws we have. “
These mishaps were prolonged during the losing streak and were particularly outrageous. Virginia allowed 49 percent to shoot during that time, including 45.5 percent in the last Wednesday night loss to North Carolina State (68-61) in Charlottesville.
The Cavaliers had not lost that season at the John Paul Jones Arena, winning their first nine games there until the state of North Carolina managed to score 30 points in the color.
Virginia has fallen to 30th place for adjusted defensive efficiency according to kenpom.com, which ranks at or near the top in most major defensive categories nationwide. Kenpom.com provides enhanced metrics that the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee takes into account in part when placing general bids.
The Cavaliers are number 13 overall on kenpom.com and number 14 in the NCAA NET ratings, which are also taken into account by the tournament committee.
“The universe of teams that can beat Virginia this year is a little bigger,” said Bilas. “We have seen in the past few years that Virginia can beat anyone in 2019 and 2018. I don’t think they can beat anyone this year. I think there are some teams where the other team would have to play less for Virginia to beat them. “
Number 1 in the ACC tournament remains mathematically within reach for Virginia, but it would have to beat Miami and Louisville to end the regular season and make the Seminoles lose their last three games. Among the last opponents of the state of Florida, only North Carolina has a victory record in the conference.
The Cavaliers, however, have a championship pedigree to draw on, with point guard Kihei Clark and center Jay Huff. Both were part of Virginia’s 2019 NCAA tournament championship, but the rest of the grid is made up of newcomers, including freshman Reece Beekman.
Two of the Cavaliers’ top three goalscorers are transfers from striker Sam Hauser (Marquette) and security guard Trey Murphy III (Rice). Guard Tomas Woldetensae, another three-point specialist, has missed the last two games due to contact tracing logs.
Woldetensae’s status is unclear when it comes to Monday’s senior night game against the Hurricanes.
“Nobody is going to tell me that if you pick Virginia for the Final Four, you’re going to be crazy,” said Luke Hancock, an analyst for the ACC Network. “What you can do is win some of those battles where it’s an ugly game. You have to find ways to put down shots and make points. That’s what Virginia wants to play, and that’s tournament-style basketball. “