Jan. 05, 2017
Virginia Cavaliers still have best defense ever
The Virginia Cavaliers‘ defense has been a staple of their program since Tony Bennett took over in 2009. During his first season, the Cavaliers held opponents to 63.6 points per game. The immediate impact of the pack line defense was evident. The Cavaliers lowered their opponents’ scoring average by almost nine points. This was only the beginning for the resurgent power in the ACC.
During the 2011-12 season, the Cavaliers’ defense made another jump. Virginia held opponents to 54.2 points per game. The defense decreased scoring another eight points per game. Therefore, Cavaliers’ opponents went from 72.5 points per game in David Leitao’s final season, to one of the stingiest units in modern history.
Furthermore, Bennett’s team made the NCAA Tournament for the first time with a (22-9) record. The Cavaliers have appeared in March Madness in 4 of the last 5 seasons. They seem to be ready to make their fourth straight appearance. However, the last time Virginia made four consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament, Ralph Sampson was a rookie with the Houston Rockets. They were one meltdown away from joining the 2016 Final Four. This current team might finish as the best defensive unit ever.
So far, the Cavaliers’ defense is holding opponents to 47.2 points per game. They are (10-1) with their lone loss coming against the West Virginia Mountaineers. They lead the nation in scoring defense by a wide margin. The Old Dominion Monarchs give up 56.4 points per game. In fact, only two opponents have scored more than 60 points against the Cavaliers. The aforementioned Mountaineers scored 66 points in the win. Meanwhile, the Ohio State Buckeyes scored 61 in a two-point loss.
The Cavaliers have also held four opponents below 40 points this year. Each of those wins came by at least 34 points. However, there are a plethora of teams to challenge the Cavaliers’ defense. They open conference play with a road date at the Louisville Cardinals. Virginia also faces the No. 1 Villanova Wildcats during a great nonconference matchup. Their defensive numbers will be tested.
The Cavaliers play seven teams ranked in the top 50 of scoring offense. Each team averages at least 83 points per game. Therefore, style of play should dictate the outcome of the games. Certainly, the Cavaliers will constrict the life out of some opponents this season. They will also need more offense in the new year.
They are holding teams to 29.9 percent from 3-point range. More importantly, opponents are only shooting 36.9 percent from 2-point range. Overall, the Cavaliers have the No. 2 field goal defense in college basketball. Due to their slower pace, the defense is a problem for most teams. However, pace is not the only reason for their epic defensive effort.
Virginia only has 10 more 3-point makes than their opponents. So, how do they have a 22.6 point differential? They have 106 more 2-point makes than their opponents. A major reason is due to lack of ball movement. The Cavaliers’ defense has limited opposing teams to 98 assists in 11 games. Meaning, opponents are getting nine assists per game. So far, teams aren’t capable of scoring during 1-on-1 plays.
The ACC should provide more competition due to elite individual scorers. These scorers may also face a battle that’s impossible to win. Say hello to the best defense in the country.