Virginia is boring.
They have no stars, they play at a lethargic pace and they win games by 15 points, but yet can’t score more than 60. Virginia resembles everything that’s wrong with college basketball…or do they resemble everything that’s right?
Virginia style of play is everything college basketball is characterized and supposed to be. Their success is due to everyone buying in to Bennett’s scheme which prioritizes defensive effort and an entire group of players moving and communicating as one—a “true” team. No one player’s ego, star power or quest for glory is placed above his teammates and the system. That’s what makes UVA’s slow-paced, defensive struggle, offensively devoid style of play so glamorous; it requires everyone on the team doing their part to be successful.
UVA’s defense rivals Kentucky’s for the claim of the best in the country. Tony Bennett’s pack line defensive scheme doesn’t just give offenses headaches, it gives them severe migraines that may include symptoms such as blurred vision from opponents and nausea in the case of viewers. Bennett’s scheme is built upon protecting the paint through communicated and disciplined rotations in which each player moves as if all five are attached on a single string. The success to which Virginia’s players execute Bennett’s scheme can be derived from the numbers. Virginia’s scoring defense tops the nation, allowing just 50.1 PPG on 35.1 percent shooting which is just a notch below Kentucky for the best in the nation. Virginia doesn’t give up easy buckets and its emphasis on protecting the paint is evident with the Cavaliers allowing the fewest 2-point field goals per game. Teams average just 24.6 PPG via 2-pointers against UVA.
It’s not just on the defensive end in which UVA’s devotion to team basketball shines through. Offensively, UVA isn’t overly reliant on one single player to create offense or carry the scoring load. Instead they are dependent on solid execution of their offensive sets, while emphasizing that each player uses his specific strengths to adopt a role in the offense.
The starting backcourt duo of London Perrantes and Malcolm Brogdon both display a great understanding for the offense and neither attempts to force the issue. Brogdon is a steady all-around player who can create for teammates, score inside, shoot threes and convert from the free throw line (86.1 percent, 3.8 FTA per game). Perrantes is the ultimate floor general with his value coming as an efficient initiator of the offense (3.1 assist to turnover ratio). Perrantes’ shooting has suffered this season, but since the injury to Justin Anderson he has become more aggressive on the offensive end as he has scored double-digits in three of the five games he’s played without Anderson.
Speaking of Anderson, it’s critical that he returns to full health and continues his improved shooting to give Virginia a much needed scoring punch come tournament time. Anderson has been Virginia’s most productive offensive player this season, shooting an incredible 48.4 percent from three this season.
In the frontcourt, Virginia boasts a healthy rotation of bigs with Anthony Gill, Darion Atkins, Mike Tobey and Evan Nolte. Gill may be Virginia’s most vital player in terms of what he does on both ends. Virginia is much more athletic than given credit for, and Gill is the headliner of athleticism on this squad. He’s an explosive scorer inside with the strength and body control to finish at the rim. Gill also provides second chance opportunities grabbing just under three offensive rebounds per game.
Virginia’s success is about embracing who they are as a team and who they are as individuals. Every player is aware of their limitations, but they also know how to excel and get the most out of their abilities. What makes Virginia such a dangerous threat is the effort game after game. Bennett’s scheme and emphasis on style of play displays a mastery understanding of the game and how to wear down opponents, but without the commitment and effort from his players, it would fall to shambles. Virginia’s don’t stand out as individuals and are often cast aside as mechanical robots obeying the orders of the creator, but the togetherness, competiveness, hustle and overall basketball character of these kids deserves more recognition.
Virginia is boring, and they probably know it to. But that’s how they win, and winning will eventually get you recognized, maybe even soon enough that this team will be known for more than being everything that’s wrong with college basketball….but also everything that’s right.