Virginia had a tremendous week going on the road and embarrassing the Louisville Cardinals 63-47. Then they took care of business beating Boston College 61-47 in a game where the score looked closer than it actually was. Here's how it looked...From the Rafters.
1) Virginia gets a statement road win - Last week, we were relieved that the Hoos were able to pick up their first road win of the year when they snuck out of Wake Forest with the W. This week, fans are singing a different tune as few teams in the country can boast a win on the road as good as Virginia's (Iowa beating MSU is the only one that comes to mind). Whether it is a sign of things to come, or if Virginia just happens to step up for the biggest games, this win will go a long way in helping Virginia's resume come March.
2) That defense though - I will preface this by saying, the referees allowed the game to be played physically unlike most games this season. But give the Hoos credit as they took full advantage. Louisville's Damion Lee was visibly frustrated while he and fellow backcourt mate Trey Lewis combined to score only 10 points, much less than their combined season average of 29.1 ppg). It wasn't only their top scorers though, as Virginia forced Louisville into their lowest offensive efficiency, lowest effective field goal percentage, and highest turnover rate on the year.
3) Malcolm Brogdon for ACC POY - While one of the stories of this season so far has been the play of the Big 3, Brogdon, London Perrantes, and Anthony Gill, during this recent five game winning streak, it has been Brogdon who has put this team on his back. The preseason ACC co-player of the year has been on fire averaging 21.8 points (four out of five games he has scored over 20 points), 5 rebounds, and 2.2 assists. While we're only halfway through the conference season, Brogdon is making a case to be named the best player in the ACC. Should Virginia stay in the hunt for the ACC Regular Season Championship, and Brogdon keeps up this torrid pace, it will be hard to deny him the honor. The showdown with North Carolina on February 27th could go a long way in deciding who takes home the prize, as Brice Johnson is making his case as well.
1) Multiple Rotations - After last week, this is somewhat nitpicking, but it still seems that Tony Bennett is having difficulty finding rotations and lineups that he can count on for long stretches at a time. It's clear that he is looking to mix and match offensive and defensive skill sets, and while having so many players getting valuable minutes, you wonder if come late in the year whether that will be a blessing or a curse. In the last five games, the most frequently used lineup (Perrantes, Devon Hall, Brogdon, Isaiah Wilkins, and Gill) was on the floor 18.6% of the time. Compare that to Oklahoma and Iowa's top lineups which are on the court 41.1% and 30.4% of the time respectively. Granted, those teams don't sport tepth Virginia's depth, but look at it another way, Virginia has six lineups who are on the court at least 5.9% of the time. Of the teams in the KenPom top 10, no other team has more than 4 (Maryland). I'm not one to second the coaching staff, but it will be interesting to see whether the rotation gets tighter, or whether or not Coach Bennett keeps the revolving door going.
What to Watch For
1) Hoos hit the road again - On Saturday, Virginia will travel to Pittsburgh for a noon tip against the Panthers who rank number 45 according to KenPom. Pitt's offense ranks 18th in the country in efficiency and they are led by 6'9" Michael Young and 6'7" Jamel Artis down low. Keep and eye on Artis in particular. He passes very well for a big man and isn't afraid to step outside for three shooting 38.5% on the season on 78 attempts. His game compares to that of Jaron Blossomgame from Clemson who Wahoo fans will remember lit up the Hoos for 23 points on four of six from outside. The road is tough in the ACC, but if the Hoos are going to gain ground on the Tar Heels, this is one they need to win.
Virginia's game against Pitt on Saturday airs on the ACC Network (ESPN3 for those outside of the blackout regions) and tips at 12:00 p.m. The Hoos return home on Tuesday when they host the Virginia Tech Hokies. That game begins at 8 p.m. and will also air on the ACC Network.