Not your father’s Virginia team: And not your father’s Virginia win

virginia basketball#3 Virginia now owns wins over two teams in the running for a #1 national seed, Villanova back on Dec. 19 and North Carolina on Saturday night.

Something was common to both wins.

Give up? Neither was your typical UVA win.

The win over Villanova, 86-75, was atypical for both the Cavs and Wildcats, two of the top 10 teams in the country in terms of defensive efficiency, who ended up surrendering, respectively, 1.43 points per possession (Villanova, which gives up an average of .926 points per possession on the season), and 1.25 points per possession (UVA, which gives up .930 points per possession on the season).

So that one was a bit unusual, but if you’re good at math, you might have noticed that game played to the usual Virginia tempo – 61 possessions for Virginia, 62 for ‘Nova.

The Cavs’ 79-74 win over UNC was more unusual, even with a lower final score, because of the tempo. Virginia had 67 possessions, Carolina 68. It wasn’t quite Carolina’s preferred pace – the Heels play to an average of 72.5 possessions per game, but the difference in tempo was certainly in the Heels’ favor.

And then, UNC shot 49.2 percent from the field, a tick better than its 48.3 percent season rate, and was a host better from three – 9-of-19, 47.4 percent, after coming into the game shooting an ACC-low 31.4 percent.

So … Carolina shot a little better from the field, a lot better from three, played the game pretty much at its pace, and lost.

Virginia didn’t beat either of those top teams with its defense, as good as its defense has been most of the season.

The Cavs defeated both by outscoring them, out-offensing them, if you will.

That both are top 12 nationally in offensive efficiency might help you appreciate the significance of that notation.

For the Colin Cowherds of the world, sure, Virginia can win boring games, the ones where the ‘Hoos hold opponents to under 50, as they did for a recent four-game stretch.

This group can also win the up-and-down games, and that’s why this group is maybe the best equipped of the most recent three to make a deep run in March and into April.

– Column by Chris Graham


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