Is UVa’s Pack-Line Ready For ACC Play?

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Akil Mitchell has been a key cog in the Pack-Line defense.

The Virginia men’s basketball team wrapped up non-conference play with a 74-39 win against Wofford, marking the third time in five games that the opponent failed to reach 40 points. Entering ACC play, UVa ranks in the top 25 nationally in scoring defense and field goal percentage defense while placing in the top 50 in 3-point field goal percentage defense. Can that effort hold up against the rigorous 18-game league schedule?

The Cavaliers found some promise in the effort against the Terriers in the last game. Virginia held Wofford well below its scoring average of 61.5 points per game after a pair of rough outings against Morgan State and Old Dominion coming out of the exam break.

“It was really encouraging. We worked really hard in practice,” Wahoo forward Akil Mitchell said. “We knew we had to bounce back after Old Dominion. We’ve been getting yelled at in practice for a week, almost two weeks now, for guys just kind of being out of it defensively. I’m really proud of my guys. They stepped up and they took the challenge. … We got an earful [after ODU] and we deserved it. We needed to hear it and it resonated throughout the team and we all bounced back.”

There is reason to find encouragement in the effort. Wofford’s offense presented several details that can often create problems for the Pack-Line defense that UVa uses. Some examples:

Dribble hand-offs and/or weaves. This type of offensive action is basically a variation of on-ball screens that can be an antidote to the Pack-Line. This is particularly true if a team uses multiple hand-offs or weave-and-go dribbling in sequence. Those attack styles force the Pack-Line to behave differently than what is normal, meaning those actions force the defense to jump out of the Pack in order to keep paint drives to a minimum.

The Terriers had some success with this style early in the game, but Virginia adjusted

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