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Chris Graham: The blueprint for beating UVa. is called zone

uva-logo-new2No doubt UVa. head coach Tony Bennett is going to have his work cut out for him trying to make sense of the tape from the 57-53 win over Virginia Tech Tuesday night.

Give Virginia Tech, which came into the game with just two ACC wins, credit for making the ‘Hoos work to the bitter end to be able to leave Blacksburg with the W. ACC coaches (calling Jim Boeheim) are going to credit the Hokies not only for their hard work, but also for how they gave Virginia fits all night long.

One word: zone. The Hokies packed it in early and basically dared Virginia to knock down shots over the zone, limiting the penetration from freshman point guard London Perrantes that has opened things up for sharpshooters Joe Harris, Malcolm Brogdon and Justin Anderson since Perrantes was given the keys to the team back in early January.

And how did Virginia respond to the challenge? Look at the numbers. UVa. put up 51 shots from the field, and 25 of them were from three-point range. That’s 49 percent of your shots coming from long-range for a team that coming in had put up just 28 percent of its shots from the field from beyond the arc.

If you’re Mike Brey at Notre Dame or Jim Larranaga at Miami, you’re definitely thinking about how much zone you can play against Virginia. If you’re Boeheim, well, you already play a little zone here and there, and nothing against Virginia Tech, but you don’t do it with the kind of guys that Virginia Tech recruits.

The good news for Virginia Tuesday night is that the shots eventually did start falling. After starting 6-for-21 from three-point range, the Cavs made three in a row to turn a four-point deficit into a five-point lead late, and that stretch of threes was the difference in the game.

Teams much more talented than an undermanned Virginia Tech squad loom on the horizon for Virginia. Not only Syracuse on March 1, but presumably Duke or UNC in the ACC Tournament, and then whoever the ‘Hoos end up facing in their NCAA Tournament run.

Bottom line: the length of that run will be determined by how well Virginia can correct their deficiencies against zone defenses.

augusta free press
augusta free press