Virginia begins its whirlwind tour of the ACC this Saturday as, due to the rescheduled Maryland game, the Cavaliers look to play four games over the course of eight days, three of which are on the road. The Hoos will get two two days of rest before going back on the road to play its fifth game. The journey begins in Blacksburg, as the 'Hoos look to avenge an overtime home loss earlier this season.
Not to dwell too much on the past, but most fans will recall having a 10-point lead with under three minutes to go before an epic collapse that have cost the Cavaliers a tie for first place in the ACC. Virginia's two overtime home losses are the difference between a middle-of-the-pack 5-3 ACC record and a clear trailblazing 7-1 ACC record.
In order to avenge the loss, Virginia will need to find a way to stop Malcolm Delaney. Delaney scored 27 points against the 'Hoos during the last go around. The junior guard averages 20.0 points per game and shoots 31.8% from three-point range. But he's not infallible. We saw Clemson shut him down, contesting every shot and causing Delaney to go a mere 5-for-14 from the field. (His 20 free throws, however, kept him a factor.)
Also high on the to-do list for the Wahoos is to find some help for Sylven Landesberg. Virginia has begun to lean a little on Mike Scott, who has proved to be a force inside and out. The issue is that Scott can get a little sloppy with his game, and if the Hokies can get Scott fouling, which hasn't shown to be too terribly hard, Virginia is left with a deep absence from elsewhere on the team.
Assane Sene has a long ways to go before Tony Bennett can rely on him down the stretch. Tri-Captain Solomon Tat -- that's right, Solomon Tat -- is a complete nonfactor (and it is unclear how he is a captain). Will Sherrill comes and goes, but generally lacks the size and strength to be able to keep up with the ACC's big men. Jerome Meyinsse has a similar problem, as we never know which Meyinsse will show up on the court.
Perhaps the most noticeable factor that Virginia will need to fix is that every game this season has been one of streaks. Virginia will need to lay a solid 40 minutes of basketball if it is to compete against Virginia Tech this weekend, and indeed throughout the remainder of this brutal ACC schedule. Against Virginia Tech last time, a 3-minute defensive collapse came at an unfortunate point in the game that required a contested buzzer three from Sammy Zeglinski just to bring it into overtime. Against Wake Forest the first go around, the Cavs were in it until a 10-minute drought that spanned two halves, which proved insurmountable despite a final-five-minute effort.
When Bennett's boys are on, they are on, and they can beat any team in the ACC handily. Against Virginia Tech, they will need to find a way to contain Delaney, who is wreaking havoc across the ACC and should be an All-ACC contender. Virginia should remain confident going into this matchup. After all, aside from UVa, Virginia Tech's ACC wins have come from Miami, BC, NC State, Clemson, and UNC. And you'll notice that Miami, BC, NC State, and UNC combine for a 10-28 ACC record. The Clemson win is certainly respectable, as the Tigers are 5-5, but it is worth noting that the Hokies' win there came at a time when the Tigers had dropped three of their past four.
On the other hand, Virginia Tech's losses come from 5-5 FSU, 3-7 Miami, and 2-7 North Carolina.
The bottom line in looking at the schedule is this: Virginia's schedule is certainly not the toughest of the conference, but don't be intimidated by a 5-3 Virginia Tech squad that is standing right next to you on the bubble. Stay the course, play a solid 40 minutes, contain Delaney, and get Landesberg some help. Easier said than done?