Virginia Basketball’s four-game winning streak came to an end with a road loss to Virginia Tech, putting a dent in their NCAA Tournament hopes. Still, the Wahoos have a good chance at a top four finish in the ACC, which comes with a double-bye in the ACC Tournament. That could lead a run in the ACC Tournament, which might get them a nod to the big dance.
Part of that four-game winning streak was a big home win over Miami, one of the teams above them in the ACC standings. Virginia currently sits tied for fifth, but has losses to three of the five teams above (or tied with) them. The Hoos have wins over the other two, Duke and Miami, which also happen to be Virginia’s next two contests.
The first of those is a road tilt against the Canes. The second is a home matchup against Duke. Although you’d think the road game is tougher, consider that Duke ranks 10th via KenPom while Miami ranks 65th. This game, in Florida, is almost a must win for the Wahoos to reach that top-four goal and possibly make the NCAA tournament.
In that first matchup, the Wahoos shot the ball very well, knocking down 8/15 from downtown. Considering how good Virginia has been in the paint of late, and how sound the Wahoos are defensively, that kind of outside shooting makes them almost unbeatable.
In their last game, the loss to the Hokies, Virginia shot 0/9 from downtown. No surprise then, that they lost. Virginia doesn’t need to be lights out from downtown to win. See the Duke win, where Virginia shot 2/12 and managed a win. But 0/9 is so bad, the defense simply does not need to extend out to the three point line. Virginia’s shooters need to be better than that.
What was interesting about that Miami game is that Virginia didn’t really dominate inside as much as they have of late. The trio of Gardner, Caffaro and Shedrick combined for just 26 points. In ACC wins, that trio has combined for 32 points, whereas in losses they combine for just 22. The Miami game was one of just three ACC wins in which Virginia was outscored in the paint.
The thing is, paint points don’t tell the whole story. Virginia was able to repeatedly get the ball into the paint. This was true both off the dribble or in the post. While those paint touches didn’t lead to paint points as much, they led to open looks from outside.
They also lead to open dunks.
Both of these are open looks because the Miami defenders are scrambling with the ball getting to Gardner in the paint. The Canes played a lot of zone, and Virginia took advantage with good passing. Jayden had 17 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. As a team, the Hoos had 23 assists on 30 FGs. On the season, Virginia assists on almost 60% of made baskets, 26th in the nation.
Another reason Virginia didn’t lead in paint points was turnovers. Miami had several runouts due to careless turnovers from Virginia. Those count as paint points, just as much as a post-up bucket.
Miami had 13 fast break points and 17 points off 13 Virginia turnovers. Virginia had 7 fast break points and and 12 points off 13 Miami turnovers. Cleaning up those turnovers will make things much easier. The Canes are very good at generating steals (17th nationally) and turnovers (81st). Virginia isn’t as good, but does have Reece Beekman, one of the top thieves in the nation.
This is a turnover forced by the Canes, but it turns into a Kadin Shedrick dunk entirely due to Beekman. Beekman had 9 points, 10 assists, 2 steals and a block against Miami. He has been quiet since then, in part due to foul trouble. Getting back the game-changing version of Beekman will go a long way.
Three point shooting was a huge part of the last matchup. If Virginia shoots 50%+ from three again, they’ll very likely win again. That probably isn’t going to happen on the road for a team that shoots just 32% from downtown. On the other side, the Canes shot just 4/17 (24%) from downtown last time out, poor shooting for a team that has some very good shooters including 6’10” senior Sam Waardenburg (shooting 44% from downtown). Historically, the Pack Line has struggled against outside shooting big men. If he and the rest of the Canes get going from outside, it could spell trouble.