clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Evaluating UVA basketball’s paths to winning the ACC Regular Season Title

Taking a look at the various scenarios for UVA to clinch the ACC.

Duke v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

As the Virginia Cavaliers have just four games remaining in their regular season schedule, they’re now sitting in a pretty solid position in the ACC with sole possession of first place following Pitt’s loss to Virginia Tech this weekend. But, with the Panthers one game back and Miami one loss (or half a game) away from the Wahoos and UVA looking shaky against recent opponents Louisville and Notre Dame, it’s still all to play for.

ESPN - ACC Standings

So, how can UVA win the ACC Regular Season Title?

The Straightforward Path: Win out

With sole possession of first in the conference, the simplest path to winning the conference outright would be by handling business against Boston College, North Carolina, Clemson, and Louisville. By winning those four remaining games, the Cavaliers would seize the ACC Tournament #1 seed and sole possession of the Regular Season Title.

How likely are they to do that? Well, tomorrow’s game at Boston College and March 4th’s game against Louisville in Charlottesville ought to be straightforward victories. Those are two teams that have been severely worse than Virginia over the entirety of the season. Boston College’s best wins this season have come against Virginia Tech, twice, and Clemson at home. Otherwise, they don’t have a single win over a team inside KenPom’s top-100. Back in late January, the ‘Hoos came out slowly against the Eagles but still won by 19. Even if things are closer on the road, tomorrow night’s contest should be a UVA win.

In similar fashion, UVA should also handle Louisville on March 4th. Yes, the Cardinals played the Cavaliers close last week, just upset Clemson, and have been playing far better basketball of late. Still, though, Virginia played its worst game of the season against Louisville on the road and still came out with the win. If they play even marginally better at home against Louisville, we should be able to assume a victory. Yes, upsets can happen. But if the Wahoos drop either of these two games they’ve got bigger problems than winning the ACC.

That leaves the matchups with Clemson and North Carolina. Despite posing some potential mismatches and being a typically sound team, the Tigers have fallen off a steep cliff after starting 10-1 in conference play, now having lost four of their last five including an eight-point defeat to Boston College and a 10-point loss to Louisville. Yup, absolutely ugly. Clemson also fell to North Carolina by 20 (!) ten days ago. Brad Brownell’s squad is clearly on the decline and, despite looking like one of the top teams in the conference at one point, now is on the verge of missing the NCAA Tournament.

That all said, PJ Hall and Hunter Tyson could be problematic for Virginia’s front-court to defend. Clemson still has something going for it, especially with how UVA’s been playing recently. This isn’t meant to guarantee a win or display that the ‘Hoos are incapable of losing to Clemson. But, this should be a win. The Tigers are bad on the road and UVA has the far superior backcourt.

That leaves UNC. Despite having lost five of their six games in February, the Tar Heels remain dangerous. Yes, they’re far worse than the preseason #1 ranking or the team that made it to the NCAA Championship game last spring. But the talent is still there and the mismatch that North Carolina’s front-court, and Armando Bacot in particular, poses is enough of a threat to be the toughest remaining game on Virginia’s schedule. The Tar Heels will be desperate for both a signature, resume boosting win and for momentum heading into the ACC Tournament.

If you recall, UVA beat the Heels 65-58 back on January 10th. Of course, Bacot suffered an injury just a minute into that contest and didn’t return which saved Virginia from having to defend the player who averaged 19.5 points and 16.5 rebounds against them in two games in 2022. Since then, the Cavaliers have been playing tons of small ball while true centers Kadin Shedrick and Fransisco Caffaro have lost out on minutes. Saturday’s game against Bacot and company will put Virginia’s front-court to the test. If they pass it, UVA should be set up really well to win the ACC.

The Most Likely Scenario: Finishing 3-1

Of course, probably the most likely scenario is that the Cavaliers drop one of the upcoming four contests. Winning is hard and the team has shown some weakness recently. If that were to happen, UVA would still be in a solid place in the ACC standings.

Importantly, Miami and Pitt play each other on March 4th for their respective season finales, meaning that Virginia could only share the conference title with one of the two teams should the Wahoos drop just one game out of their final four. Looking beyond that, though, there’s still a possibility that the Cavaliers could win the ACC outright by finishing 3-1.

Miami’s remaining games consist of going to Virginia Tech (a lose-able game despite the Hokies’ struggles), hosting Florida State, and then welcoming Pittsburgh on the 4th. Meanwhile, Pitt plays against Georgia Tech at home tonight, hosts Syracuse this coming Saturday, heads to Notre Dame a week from tomorrow, and then plays Miami to finish things up.

Ideally for UVA, at least one of those two teams would lose a game before playing each other and then that team would beat the other, leaving them tied for second place in the conference at 15-5. In this scenario, Virginia could afford to drop one of its last four and still win the conference outright at 16-4. There’s always the chance that that Pitt-Miami game doesn’t matter for UVA, too, should both of them lose one of their games before that matchup.

Yet, if Virginia does lose one of its next four, it feels most likely that they’d tie with Miami for the ACC Title and then, notably, be the two seed for the ACC Tournament because the Hurricanes have the head-to-head tie breaker. Miami is simply better positioned than the Panthers with fewer games, easier matchups, and because they get to play Pitt at home. Thus, the ‘Canes finishing 3-0 is the most likely scenario which would pressure UVA to win at least three of its last four.

Getting Lucky: Dropping two games and praying

Then there’s also the craziest scenario: UVA goes 2-2 over the final stretch of games, finishes 15-5, and has to rely on that potential but unlikely scenario where Miami and Pitt finish at 15-5 as well. Depending on who Virginia loses to, this would also open the door to the Clemson Tigers (currently 11-5) back-dooring their way to an ACC Title.

That would mean the Wahoos still get a share of the conference’s Regular Season Title, but would also put Virginia as the #3 or #4 seed in Greensboro. The Cavaliers would have to get incredibly lucky, but it’s still not completely out of the question that Tony Bennett and company could win the ACC while stumbling twice over the next week and a half.

Obviously, yes, UVA could possibly go 1-3 and luck into a share of the ACC Title if things go horribly poorly for the other top teams as well. But that seems improbable enough to not need to dive into.

Bottom Line

All in all, UVA’s in about as good of a position as they could hope for right now. Having lost to both Pitt and Miami earlier in the season hurts their potential seeding in the case of a tiebreaker. But these next four games are all very winnable with the contest in Chapel Hill as the only one that would register as a truly acceptable loss considering the matchup and location.

Recent struggles against two of the conference’s worst aren’t encouraging. But the experience and talent of the roster combined with the best coaching staff in the ACC would suggest that the poor shooting and altogether middling offensive performances recently can be corrected and improved upon in what will be the most important stretch of the season yet.