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Weekly Hoops Check-In: Confused By Virginia's Uneven Start

The Cavaliers escaped with a tough road win Tuesday night to move to 6-1. But how should we feel about their play so far?

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia won a tight road game Tuesday night, beating Ohio State by 6 points in Columbus. Given that the Buckeyes had previously lost to UT-Arlington, Louisiana Tech, and Memphis, the win was probably a little too close for some Virginia fans to feel great afterwards. On one hand, Ohio State never posed a severe threat. On the other hand, Virginia never pulled away.

So what does it say when a road win against a Big Ten opponent leaves some of us underwhelmed? Does it say that we’ve been spoiled by the level of play Virginia showed during its back-to-back ACC title runs? Does it say that the current team isn’t playing at the level we hoped it would? It’s probably some of both. But let’s not forget, the Wahoos were playing without London Perrantes, the team’s starting point guard and arguably its second-or-third-best player. And as we've seen from no less than Kentucky and North Carolina, road victories are rarely easy to come by.

Maybe the problem is what some of us choose to remember from the last two seasons. The Joe Harris-led Hoos put up dominant road performances in ACC play in 2014. Virginia pasted Notre Dame by 15 in South Bend and NC State by 30 in Raleigh. Likewise, last year’s Virginia team beat Maryland on the road by 11, VCU on the road by 17, and Wake Forest on the road by 35. Are those are the memories that have colored our expectations for this season?

If so, we might have decided to block out the memories of the double-overtime road win at Miami or the come-from-behind victory in Blacksburg against a terrible Tech team. We might selectively forget that both of those wins came before Justin Anderson’s injury. We might choose to ignore that Virginia was at full strength and needed heroics to prevail in both cases.

I also wonder what the feeling would have been if this was a February conference road win instead of a November Big Ten challenge road win. In most cases, if someone told us Virginia would go on the road without Perrantes and beat an ACC team by 6, would we be happy? I think it’s likely.

As we enter December, I think it’s clear that we still don’t know how this team stacks up. There’s plenty of time left for it to gel, but there’s no guarantee that it will. The Hoos haven’t come out of the gate on fire, and it’s hard to put a finger on exactly why. We should know more next week after Virginia hosts a sneaky-good W&M team and takes on WVU in the Jimmy V Classic. The next week should be Virginia's toughest test yet. It will be telling to see how the Hoos fare.