Five things I was wrong about with UVA Basketball

uva basketball national champsThe national idiots – and, they’re idiots – have long said UVA Basketball would never win a national championship under Tony Bennett … because.

Because the tempo made it so that Virginia never blows out opponents, which makes UVA more susceptible to upsets, because, the ‘Hoos won 22 games by 10 or more points in 2018-2019, 14 of those by 20 or more, with eight of the double-digit wins coming against teams in the Top 50, and six against NCAA Tournament teams.

Virginia was second offensively in adjusted efficiency, and fifth on defense.

The Cavaliers’ adjusted efficiency margin, +34.22, is the third-best of the era, which dates back 19 seasons.

So, BS, that crap about tempo being the issue.

Another because: Virginia basketball is boring.

Um, OK. This year’s national-championship game was the highest-scoring national-championship game since 2000.


And, would boring have even mattered anyway?

You’re just supposed to win, right?

OK, so, that’s BS.

But I’ve been telling you this stuff for years.

As much a Tony Bennett Will Win Multiple Championships Guy that I’ve been, I did get five things wrong.

OK, so, I have to just say it here. I put “five things” in the headline because that’s what you’re supposed to do to get people to click.

I’ve been trying to come up with five things since the train ride home from U.S. Bank Stadium in the early hours of Tuesday morning, and I can’t come up with more than two.

But, I readily admit, I was very wrong on those two.

Here we go.

#1: Tony wears his guys out in the regular season

A regular feature of my Inside the Numbers columns is looking at minutes for his starters. Grasping for straws like the rest of the media folks, I had come upon, his starters play too damn much in the regular season, and because Virginia goes at it hard, every possession, on offense, on defense, from November on, they just wear out in March.

I’ve never bought into the style of play doesn’t work in March nonsense, because if it works from November to the end of the regular season, against ACC teams, against top non-conference teams, it doesn’t make sense that it would suddenly stop working in March Madness.

Unless: Tony was riding his starters too much.

I won’t rehash my annual year-in-review analyses to that effect, but safe to say, I did beaucoups of numbers-crunching pieces buttressing my point.

And now, it’s all balderdash.

The bench minutes for the 2018-2019 team, according to, which I am going to miss for the next seven months, incidentally, now that this is all over, were at 22.9 percent.

The 2017-2018 team (first-round NCAA Tournament loss): 29.0 percent.

The 2016-2017 team (second-round NCAA Tournament loss): 37.9 percent.

The 2015-2016 Elite Eight team: 31.8 percent.

The 2014-2015 team that lost to Michigan State in the second round: 33.6 percent.

The 2013-2014 team that loss to Michigan State in the Sweet Sixteen: 29.1 percent.

Tony rode this team harder, a lot harder, than any of those, and then, they had to win two overtime games, and the last four went to the final seconds.

It wasn’t about legs. I will stop writing about minutes.

#2: Other teams match UVA’s intensity in March

This one, I kind of picked up from other writers, aka the idiots, but it started to make some sense to me the past couple of years, so, I bought into it.

The idea is: UVA outwills opponents from November to the end of the regular season because, as Tony likes to say, we go hard, and, maybe other teams don’t go quite as hard, at least not every possession, like you see Tony’s teams do.

But then, when you get to March Madness, everybody is going to go hard, every possession, because Every Game is Game 7 in the NCAA Tournament.

That, coupled with how UVA has gone hard, on every possession, from November to the end of the regular season, kind of works together to take away any advantage UVA has season-long.

Odd, now, in retrospect, that I would have viewed this as an issue.

The flip side to, we go hard, all season long, is, we go hard, all season long.

Teams that only go hard when it matters might not know what it means to go really hard.

I mean, they can figure it out, sure, but, it’s one thing to figure it out in a Game 7 situation, and another thing to know what you’re capable of.

Virginia knows what it’s capable of. That has to be an advantage.

OK, so, what was it then, before this year?

Pure, dumb, bad luck.

Not tempo being an issue. Not being boring, whatever that means.

Not too many minutes for the starters.

Not going too hard all season long.

Anthony Gill sprained his ankle in the Sweet Sixteen. Justin Anderson wasn’t 100 percent in 2015.

Syracuse got lucky in that Elite Eight.

De’Andre being out in 2018.

This year, everybody was healthy, the matchups were nice, a couple of things bounced in our favor, and right now, typing this, I’m wearing, for the second straight day, the championship game hat and T-shirt that my wife bought for me in U.S. Bank Stadium as confetti was falling from the skywalk, as I’m about to board a plane back home for Virginia.


Column by Chris Graham


UVA Basketball Fans!

uva basketball team of destiny
Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25. The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe, and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018 through to the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.

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