One and done: Why it’s so hard to play UVA
You know going in against second-ranked UVA that it’s going to be a dogfight. Possession by possession. You’re not going to get easy baskets in transition. You’re not going to get a lot of offensive rebounds. You can try to get into the lane, get open looks off screen action, but you have to be perfect with every pass, and make the open shots that you get, and there won’t be many of them.
The problem that opponents have facing Virginia is similar to what ACC football teams face when trying to get ready for Georgia Tech. You know going in that Paul Johnson runs the triple-threat option, and you probably have a guy on your roster that can run an option offense on the scout team, but he isn’t going to be as good as Johnson’s guy, and your scout-team line isn’t going to chop the way his line will, and your scout-team H-backs aren’t going to get the misdirection the way his H-backs will.
Before you face Virginia, similarly, you can big-to-big post double with your reserves, but they’re not going to be able to replicate what Darion Atkins, Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey can do in the post double, and you can have them run a version of the Pack-Line, but they’re not going to be able to simulate the on-ball defense of Malcolm Brogdon, maybe the best on-ball defender in the nation, or a healthy Justin Anderson, who is on the short list of most athletic perimeter defenders in the country.
One advantage ACC football coaches getting ready for Georgia Tech have over ACC basketball coaches getting ready for Virginia is time. You generally get six days to game plan and practice for Georgia Tech’s triple-threat option. You may only get 48 hours to prepare for UVA’s Pack-Line, like Pitt got between its 89-76 win at home over #15 UNC Saturday and its contest on Big Monday in Charlottesville.
“We double-team all the time, so we see it in practice all the time, and they did it to a degree. It seemed to hurt us, and we have to do a better job against it. We didn’t have a lot of time to practice, but we did practice a little against it yesterday,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said after his team’s 61-49 loss. “We see it every day in practice, so it is something we should be prepared for and can handle. I just don’t think we moved the ball well enough in those situations, so that’s why we came up with the result we had.”
The Panthers shot 65 percent from the field in their dominant win over the Tar Heels on Saturday. They shot 38.6 percent against UVA on Monday, and had a season-low 15 points in the first half.
Pitt seemed to get into a rhythm for a stretch in the second half, scoring on four of its first six possessions, but as the Panthers harassed Virginia into a long stretch of misses and turnovers (the Cavs scored just 11 points in the first 12:35 of the second half), they couldn’t sustain that early offensive rhythm.
UVA led 32-25 at the 15:22 mark, and it was still 36-33 with 7:35 to go, with Pitt scoring just eight points in that 11-possession stretch, then going scoreless for the next 3:55 as the Cavs blew the game open with an 8-0 run.
“We didn’t handle being down for a stretch there in the second half,” Dixon said. “We got good looks to start, the first couple possessions, ran a couple plays out of the box that we put in, and then we got wide open looks. We made a couple, then missed an open one.
“They keep coming, and they keep making you make the right play time and time again. Their size at all positions is a real attribute for them. Their size and their strength, and their experience at all spots, I think, is a big reason why they are successful.”
– Column by Chris Graham