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Inside the Numbers: This isn’t Tony Bennett defense

tony bennett
Virginia coach Tony Bennett. Photo by Dan Grogan.

Virginia ranks 102nd nationally in adjusted defense. In ACC games, the Cavaliers rank 13th. The last time a Virginia defense ranked that low in the metrics for a full season: 2007-2008, which ended with Dave Leitao coaching games in something called the CBI.

Against ACC opponents, Virginia is giving up a ghastly 1.088 points per possession, despite leading the conference in block percentage (15.2%), ranking fourth in opponent two-point percentage (48.5%), fifth in field goal rate (25.4%).

If you’ve tuned in for a game or more, you know what the big issues are: rebounding and threes.

Virginia ranks 11th in conference games in opponent offensive rebounding percentage (30.1%), and 14th in opponent threes (39.9%).

Last year’s group, which we thought at the time was Tony Bennett sacrificing offense with a soft Big Three (Sam Hauser, Jay Huff, Trey Murphy III), was a stone wall in comparison.

Even that group, the first UVA team in seven years to rank outside the Top 10 nationally in adjusted defense, ranking 36th, ranked second in adjusted defense in conference games (.987 PPP), and was first in opponent offensive rebounding percentage (21.3%), second in two-point field goal defense (46.8%), third in free throw rate (25.5%), fifth in block rate (12.2%) and opponent threes (33.2%).

The deficiencies with this year’s group are, unfortunately, compound themselves, starting with rebounding.

The rebounding issue was most noticeable in the loss at UNC a couple of weeks back, when Armando Bacot had 21 boards, and the guys charged with boxing him out, Kadin Shedrick and Francisco Caffaro, combined for just two.

Shedrick (21.1%) and Caffaro (20.0%) are the only two rotation players over the 20 percent mark in defensive rebounding percentage. Last year’s group had three – Justin McKoy (26.1%), Jay Huff (24.6%) and Sam Hauser (21.6%), with Shedrick (17.7%) providing backup.

Jayden Gardner, the undersized 6’7” power forward, is at 17.7 percent, and because of the lack of depth up front, that’s it.

ACC opponents are grabbing offensive rebounds at an 8.8 percent higher rate than last year. Raw numbers-wise, that’s an additional two offensive boards per game.

The issue with threes – ACC opponents are making them at a 6.7 percent higher clip than a year ago – translates in raw numbers into an additional 1.4 makes from long-range per outing.

That discrepancy is often down to one guy being out of position – a guard getting beat to a spot in the lane, forcing a teammate to help, and ball movement eventually finding an open guy who can squeeze off a three before the closeout.

Bottom line, the issues with rebounding and threes adds up to ACC teams scoring 4.5 more points per game against the ‘Hoos than teams scored against last year’s group.

That’s the difference between a team that started 10-1 in the ACC a year ago, and is currently at 6-5 in ACC play with the calendar about to flip to February.

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press
augusta free press

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