With three regular season games to go, the Virginia Cavaliers already have nine losses on the season, which is more than they have had in each of the past three seasons. Each loss has been somewhat unique in its own right, and Virginia fans have found plenty to be critical about. But in looking closer, each loss can be traced back to at least one of four main culprits.
- Free Throws
- Offensive Dry Spells
- Hot Opposing Shooting
- Second Half Collapse
Whether it’s not getting to the line enough or missing too many when they do, one of Virginia’s biggest recurring problems is free throws. The Cavaliers are 0-5 when they shoot eight or fewer free throws in a game. Even when they get to the line, Virginia’s struggles there have cost them the game on more than one occasion. The Hoos missed six against WVU, seven against Miami, and 10 against Virginia Tech. Overall, UVA has a FT% of 64% in losses compared to 74% in wins. In the five losses in regulation time, UVA averaged only five FT attempts compared to 16 attempts in wins.
Offensive Dry Spells
Despite being known as a defensive oriented team, Virginia generally has a very efficient offense as well. However, sometimes the Hoos can go through offensive dry spells that they cannot overcome with a stingy defense. While it is no surprise that the Cavaliers shoot better in wins (48%) than in losses (42%), key droughts can doom them. UVA went for stretches of 0-6 three times against Duke, 0-7 once against Miami, and even an 0-11 stretch against UNC. A five-minute scoring drought allowed Villanova to comeback as did an eight-minute drought against Syracuse.
Hot Opposing Shooting
Despite having one of the best defenses in the country, some teams can get hot and defeat the Hoos vaunted defense. Pittsburgh and Florida State were both lights out from three, hitting 13/21 (62%) and 8/15 (53%) in those losses. In the second half of their respective victories, Syracuse was 14/19 (74%) from the floor and Villanova was 13/18 (72%). If your defense is doing its job, and the opposing team is still draining shots from impossible spots on the floor, there’s not much you can do about that. In some cases, it could be some mismatches or just sluggish defense, but in the cases of Pitt and FSU, for example, bad luck seems the bigger culprit.
Second Half Collapse
The last and most painful — and maybe obvious — cause of most of UVA’s losses have been second half collapses. In a trend that started in the Elite Eight loss last year, UVA has blown second half leads in eight of their nine losses. The most egregious are 14 points to Virginia Tech, 13 to Villanova, 12 to Syracuse, and nine at home to Miami. The three culprits mentioned above are big contributing factors to these collapses, but the notion of a second half collapse is important enough to be singled out as its own cause. The multiple meltdowns result in a "here we go again" mentality instead of the mindset to put teams away at the end of games — it was visible in the Miami loss in the players’ body language late in the second half.
With three regular season games and the postseason remaining, UVA has time to figure out these problems. However, if Virginia has a lead in the second half and they start missing shots and free throws while their opponent starts draining shots, head for the hills! Run away!