Seeking Context From An Early Exit In Brooklyn

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The Virginia basketball team fell to Notre Dame in Brooklyn.
Tony Bennett’s team will receive an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. ~ Photo courtesy of Matt Riley/

Throughout the day Friday, Virginia basketball fans have trickled to message boards to try to decipher what Thursday night’s ACC Tournament exit meant for the night and for the season.

Notre Dame sent UVA home from Brooklyn with a 71-58 loss in the quarterfinals, marking the Hoos’ first exit before the semis since the 2013 event. The answers in the search for context can be found all over that sentence.

For the night, the Cavaliers were, in a word, lackluster. Other words and phrases that could apply: lethargic, frustrated, not right, out of rhythm. All in all, it unfolded as an uncharacteristic night for the Wahoos.

They trailed at the half for just the seventh time this season, a 32-26 score that represented the third largest halftime deficit of the season. UVA also led for only 39 seconds, easily the lowest total of any game this year. The Hoos shot only 38.6%, while allowing the Irish to reach 52.2%. That’s the fifth time an opponent cracked 50% this season.

Beyond that, the Cavaliers couldn’t slow anyone down really. Bonzie Colson led the way with 21 points and 10 rebounds, but he was one of four players in double figures. Matt Farrell added 14 points, while Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem had 12 each. On the other hand, the two shooting threats UVA had come to rely on to spark the offense sputtered. London Perrantes finished with a season-low 3 points on 1-of-9 shooting, while Kyle Guy put up a goose egg on 0-8 shooting himself.

As nights go, that’s a pretty bad one.

The season view didn’t change much, though. Since the dismissal of Austin Nichols back in November, this team reinvented itself within the season. Nichols likely would have been featured as a plug-and-play type in the Anthony Gill spot, but post touches nearly evaporated with his departure. Four guard lineups became more than a change of pace, on-ball screen usage increased, and jumpshots became an even bigger part of things. In recent weeks, those jumpers came from behind the 3-point line more often too.

Long story short, the calculus changed with the sudden personnel shift. A team with a potentially more balanced offense became reliant on outside shooting more than it had planned. A top 10 to 12 preseason outlook with ACC and NCAA Tournament possibilities narrowed considerably. The Cavaliers settled in as a top 15-30 team as a result, though it remained in the conference hunt and double bye conversation before a handful of overtime and close losses proved to be too much to overcome.

This year’s edition of Virginia basketball is capable of winning big games against great opponents, but it’s also capable of struggling with shooting and falling to teams with similar season profiles. That makes postseason one-and-done tournaments even more unpredictable than they already are for a team like this one. UVA could advance to the Sweet 16 or lose on the first weekend just as easily.

Thursday night’s result didn’t change any of that.

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2 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. What might be the recipe for paint offense next year? Seems unlikely that Qyburn will fuse Salt, Reuter and Diakite into the ideal post over the summer. I would assume that if Hunter or Huff could be expected to really take a lead in that role next year, then one or the other would have been asked to step in this year after Nichols was dismissed. Thanks for your insight.

    1. Paint offense hasn’t been a huge problem this year believe it or not. UVA has outscored opponents in the paint more often than not. The post-up offense is a different story, but my guess is UVA’s offense continues to go through a transition to a more space/drive look to take advantage of growing number of shooters on the roster.

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