Answering Popular Basketball Questions

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Six games into the 2008-09 season, the Virginia men’s basketball team has posted a 3-3 record. Interestingly, the Hoos arguably looked better in the losses away from Charlottesville than they did in the victories at the John Paul Jones Arena. No matter where the contest was played, however, there have been plenty of opportunities to take a closer look at these Cavaliers. While the team takes an exam break, The Sabre tries to examine some of the common fan questions about the Cavs.

Virginia’s defense and rebounding is getting better so far this season.

1. How Does UVa’s Defense Look?

Marcia, Marcia, Marc … err, Defense, Defense, Defense! Few things received as much airtime this offseason than defense and whether Virginia will play any. Dave Leitao started emphasizing the need to refocus on that end of the floor shortly after last season ended and he hasn’t relented in any media discussion since. Naturally, early season games or not, folks want to know how the defense has looked so far. So what about the defense?

Leitao, for one, has been both pleased and disappointed with the defense to date. He has mentioned better rotations and positioning as things of note, but also has lamented the lack of consistency and mental breakdowns on that end during key opponent runs.

I couldn’t agree more. Let’s start with the breakdowns. For much of last season, the Cavaliers failed to contain dribble penetration, forgot to help the help defender, over-rotated and lost players in the process, and closed out sloppily against spot-up shooters. The results were often dismal. Teams like Clemson and Xavier bombed away, scoring baskets at will. Patient teams slowly picked apart the Hoos’ D and got quality looks trip after trip after trip.

Similar moments have happened this season, though the breakdowns are much less frequent so far. The major points of concern, in my opinion, are on over-rotations (losing players) and closeouts on shooters. UVa defenders need to improve their footwork and shorten their