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Evaluating UVA men’s basketball’s chances to win the ACC

A weird ACC means Clemson is two games up on the field nearly halfway into conference play.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps the Virginia Cavaliers do not have the championship roster we thought they may have had earlier in the season. But things are still looking good for Tony Bennett’s program.

On Monday, the Hoos earned the 10th spot in the AP Poll, once again the highest in the ACC. However, in the standings, they sit two games back. With Clemson alone on top at 7-0, five teams, including Virginia, have posted a conference record of 5-2.

Virginia is widely considered the best team in the conference, but is the margin large enough to make up the ground?

In every major metric and poll, the Cavaliers stand atop the ACC. Much of this is because of their success in the non-conference slate, rather than what they have done recently, but they are the most capable team however you cut it.

Bart Torvik still ranks Clemson 62nd, which is nearly 50 spots behind the ‘Hoos. The model projects UVA to finish the season 15-5 in conference play, giving them a 43.2% chance to have at least share of the conference title, a 23.4% chance to win it outright, and a 91.4% chance to earn a top four seed. The fact that Virginia and Clemson’s matchup lies ahead certainly helps the case. If the game were played today, UVA would be expected to be 7.5 point favorites in Charlottesville.

Can Virginia win the conference the way they are playing or do they need to pick up?

Like I said, UVA’s high ranking in the polls and metrics are mostly due to their key early wins. Lately, they have not played as well.

To me, we have seen what the ‘Hoos are defensively. Yes, they can make slight adjustments and improve a bit throughout the year but the bottom line is the defense is good, not great.

It’s on the offensive end where things tend to fluctuate. We all remember when UVA shot 64% from beyond the arc against Baylor and also how cold they were in consecutive losses to Houston and Miami. According to Shot Quality, the Cavaliers are fourth in the ACC in Open three Rate but ninth in Shot Making. The facilitators and the scheme usually create open looks but the shooters remain streaky.

As Bennett continues to move away from the traditional bigs in favor of small ball, Virginia will only reach their ceiling if the shooting becomes even more consistent.

How many teams can beat Virginia on a given night?

According to Torvik, the Cavaliers are expected to be favorites in each remaining game with the exception of road clashes with Virginia Tech and North Carolina. They are given a greater than 85% win probability in both games against Louisville and Boston College and a home matchup with Notre Dame.

There is so much parity in the ACC that you can basically separate the conference into two tiers.

Tier 1: Clemson, Duke, Miami, North Carolina, NC State, Pitt, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

Tier 2: Boston College, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Notre Dame

Matchups between teams from the same tier will usually contain spreads no greater than 4-6 points while teams from Tier 1 will be significant favorites over teams from Tier 2. UVA has eight remaining games against Tier 1 teams and five against Tier 2 teams.

Buckle up because there’s a lot of stressful basketball games ahead of us!