Defending Virginia

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Defenses are forcing Joe Harris and Sammy Zeglinski to use the dribble more to score.

For Virginia fans the aftermath of Sunday’s loss to Virginia Tech ranged from disappointment to worry. The frustration heavily hinged on the fact that the loss came to rival VT at home. That line of thinking included the following egg theory: “if you’re going to stink it up, why not do it against the other Tech on the road Thursday?”

The concern, on the other hand, stared at the long-term ramifications. That hypothesis? It’s the “how can the Hoos make the NCAA Tournament if they can’t even beat struggling Virginia Tech at home?” mindset. In other words, did the Hokies provide a blueprint for knocking off the Cavaliers?

I believe the answer is yes and no. Certainly, VT’s plan to limit Virginia’s offense was a good one and the visitors executed that plan very well in pulling off the upset win. Still, the strategy didn’t break new ground or unveil some sort of unknown weakness. In a sense, Sunday’s scheme is something many observers and I’m sure UVa’s coaches expected to see at some point during the 2011-2012 season.

So yes the plan worked, but no there was not some sort of secret system that made it effective. Some teams, including Tech the second time around, could try to duplicate the defensive success in similar ways, however, so it is important to diagnose what the basics of the strategy were and how Virginia can try to attack comparable plans in the future.

As I wrote in the game recap article, Virginia Tech’s plan had a few basic tenets:

  • Deny Scott early in the shot clock and make him catch it as far off the blocks as possible. If Scott receives the ball then crowd him to prevent those deadly mid-range jumpers and double team him if he makes moves toward the rim.
  • Send varying double teams toward Scott when appropriate (in the Hokies’ case, they chose to double mostly when Scott put the ball on the floor) and leave Jontel Evans as the uncovered player. That doesn’t mean the defense