UVA Pack-Line showing holes of late?

2015FinalFourLogoUVA hangs its hat and hinges its fortunes on its vaunted Pack-Line defense. Which has been anything but vaunted of late.

Virginia (30-3) has allowed four of its last six opponents to average more than a point per possession, and while the Cavs have won four of those six, it’s felt like anything but UVA basketball of late.

“There’s a enough contested shots, but you want to certainly not have that number go up, that’s an important number for us, so I don’t know if our offenses dictated that as much as just some tough shots being hit and then couple them with a few breakdowns,” UVA coach Tony Bennett told reporters on Saturday, on the eve of a third-round NCAA Tournament matchup with Michigan State.

UVA is second in the nation in defensive efficiency according to KenPom.com, allowing an average of .860 points per possession, but in the recent six-game stretch has allowed opponents to score .961 points per possession.

The success for opponents has come in varied ways. Virginia Tech (1.04 ppp in a 69-57 loss to UVA on Feb. 28 and Belmont (1.03 ppp in a 79-67 loss to Virginia on Friday) spread the floor with four-guard lineups to free up three-point shooters and backdoor cuts.

Louisville (1.07 ppp in a 59-57 win on March 7) and UNC (1.06 ppp) are solid post teams that get points in the lane and three-point shots that come off penetration and ball reversals.

Michigan State is more like Louisville and UNC, certainly, in its approach, and the Spartans have the ability to put the ball in the hole, ranking 16th nationally in offensive efficiency (1.136 ppp in 2014-2015), and two recent games under their belt against Big Ten champ Wisconsin, which employs a version of the Pack-Line that UVA uses as its base defense.

Michigan State scored 1.07 points per possession in its 68-61 loss to the Badgers on March 1, and then 1.08 points per possession in its 80-69 overtime loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament final on March 15.

State coach Tom Izzo isn’t exactly salivating at the chance to go up against the UVA Pack-Line, recent trends notwithstanding.

“I don’t know if there’s reasons for it. I know this. There aren’t many coaches around the country that wake up feeling good about going against Virginia’s defense. I think it’s more than just reputation. I think it’s been proven over time,” Izzo said.

– Story by Chris Graham


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