Things are going considerably well for the Virginia Cavaliers so far this season as the Hoos are 16-1, 5-0 in conference play (and the only remaining undefeated team in ACC play), and up to No. 2 in the rankings. While the Hoos have started strong and held court (pun intended) at home, four of the Hoos’ first five conference games have been played in the friendly confines of John Paul Jones Arena.
“Yeah, I actually said something today like, ‘we’ve got a lot of home games this year’,” Guy said after the win over NC State on Sunday. “I think it’s always good to capitalize when you have home court advantage and we don’t like to lose in front of our fans so we keep pushing.”
“Honestly I didn’t realize that until about three days ago,” Coach Bennett said of their home-heavy schedule to start conference play. “You’re just playing, and that’s quite a stretch. We did protect home court. It’s like in golf. It’s like getting a birdie in this league when you win on the road, so there’s terrific teams and we’re now going to get to test our mettle going on the road and playing.”
Tonight, the Hoos head to Atlanta to take on a Georgia Tech team that is - surprisingly - off to a quick 3-1 start in conference play. More surprising? The Jackets have the top-rated defense in conference play (per KenPom), edging out Virginia slightly. Additionally, Georgia Tech basketball announced on Twitter yesterday that it’s going to be a packed house for their #GTGoldOut.
Thursday night at McCamish is SOLD OUT!!! #GTGoldOut #TogetherWeSwarm https://t.co/VauLHhMu0i pic.twitter.com/EbKa8qObmg— Georgia Tech Sports (@GTAthletics) January 17, 2018
The Jackets dropped their conference opener at Notre Dame, 68-59, but have rattled off four straight wins - three in conference thanks to a weirdly timed game with Yale - since. In that three-game conference stretch, Miami (KenPom 30) and Notre Dame (KenPom 26) have been handed losses at McCamish. Neither team scored over 55 points with the Hurricanes losing 64-54 and the Irish falling 60-53. Both Notre Dame and Miami fall in the bottom half of “conference only” offensive stats in KenPom, but neither is a pushover, so the Hoos should be ready to face a tough defense with the Jackets.
Not for nothing, Virginia’s one away game in conference this season was an outstanding success as the Hoos went to Blacksburg and absolutely demolished the Hokies, 78-52. The Hoos are in the driver’s seat for the ACC regular season title, so it’s up to them to take that success on the road. Since the 2013-14 season, Virginia has amassed a 61-16 regular season ACC record, which is tops in the league over that span. Of those 16 losses, however, 12 have been on the road. Nine of those 12 road losses happened in the 2015-16 or 2016-17 seasons.
This season, 30 of 41 played games have been won by the home team (73.2%). Coach Bennett knows that the road is about to get tough for the Hoos, but he is happy with his team and their mental state.
“What goes around comes around, so we’re going to have to pay those back. League on the road is challenging. You can see that the numbers are bearing that out, but I like how we played and I told them, ‘stay in the moment’.” Bennett said. “That’s what I like about this team. You can get to the spot that they’re in and you can do one of two things to hurt yourself. You can become arrogant and feel like, ‘yep, I got this’, or you can become afraid and neither are any good. Just all for one, one for all. You just keep being who you are.”
The Hoos and Jackets tip off at 8pm tonight on Regional Sports Networks or ACC Network Extra.