UVA lost to Virginia Tech last night. No one wants to think about it, but unless this is just a bad dream and we are about to wake up to see London Perrantes step to the line for two, Wahoo fans will have to internalize it and move forward.
So, what did the loss to the Hokies actually mean? Is it a blip in the road? Or cause for serious concern? Here are two perspectives, with Brian as the blind optimist and Eric as pessimistic worry-wart.
Does this loss impact the team's chances of going far this season?
Brian S: Not really, though it obviously doesn't make it easier. If we define "going far" as winning the ACC and/or NCAA Tournaments, I am not terribly worried. While the loss can ultimately end up bumping us down seeding-wise, so much of seeding ends up being luck of the draw anyways that it's tough to get too worried. Hey, if we lost another game last season, maybe we would've avoided an obviously under-seeded MSU team. Obviously, the regular season race will be a tight one, and a loss doesn't help; but UVA won't be the only team to lose a few road games this season.
Eric: If it does impact the chances of the team going far, which I think it will to a lesser extent, we won't know until after the season is over. Because the loss came to a team that UVa should beat on just about any night, it makes it a whole lot harder to three-peat for the ACC regular season - especially outright. It could lead to worse matchups in the ACC and NCAA tournaments, which in turn could lead to early exists from either or both. On the other hand, I'm not sure you can rule out the possibility of the game spurring them on to do something on the other side of that spectrum like go something like 16-2 in the league for the third year in a row.
Does this loss tell us something about the team? (I.e. Is it not as good as we thought?)
Brian S: I don't think so. We lost the game because:
1) We turned the ball over a ton. That's the primary reason we lost, and it was a fluke. UVA has been VERY consistent about not doing that this season. I am not at all concerned about turnovers. The only other games during which we turned the ball over more than the NCAA average rate were against West Virginia and Villanova's pressure defenses.
2) We didn't defend well. We knew that this UVA team is a good defensive team, but not a great one. I don't think any more or less of our defense.
While wins and losses are all that matter, they shouldn't be all that we calibrate expectations on. If Justin Anderson missed a late three-pointer last season at Cassell, we would have had the same panic. And if London Perrantes bangs home another three this time to cap a dramatic comeback, nobody would be worried. A two point loss and a one point win may (rightfully) leave fans with VERY different feelings, they don't explain a large gap in how a team actually performed.
Eric: I think it suggests that this team, compared to the previous two years, just isn't as good. In the 2014 and 2015 games in Blacksburg, they had players like Joe Harris and Justin Anderson to look to when things looked bad. This year, London Perrantes has shown flashes of brilliance (last night and the Cal game), but even when he took over last night, all it did was keep Virginia Tech from running away with it because the defense couldn't get stops. Once again, a really slow start plagued them, and this time, they couldn't recover. This has been an issue since Anderson's injury last year, and I wish I knew why they just keep happening over and over again.
With all that said, I chose "suggests" above for a reason. Although it raises a number of concerns (energy, turnovers, interior defense), I understand those who say that it took all of that and a stellar game from the Hokies to lose by two on the road. Every loss since the Tennessee game in 2013 has been followed up by a double-digit win. I'd be shocked if that trend doesn't continue on Saturday against Georgia Tech, but that doesn't mean there aren't a few things that need to be fixed.
Does UVA have some sort of "problem with road games?"
Brian S: No more than any other team in college basketball struggles with road games. We've been spoiled with a freakish 18-6 record in road games (15-3 in conference road games!!). This is not sustainable. Teams don't do this. Virginia is going to lose more road games this season, but may well win all its remaining games at JPJ. You wish it weren't to goofballs like the Hokies, but it's college kids playing basketball. Things happen.
Eric: There is some kind of problem with away games, for sure. UVa has played three true road games this year, all of which came against unranked teams. They're 1-2 and didn't play very well in any of them. They're 4-0 in neutral site games, while virtually coasting through the Charleston Classic and having to come back from as much as 12 down late in the first half to beat West Virginia. This isn't as worrying as some of the other issues people have been talking about since last night, because every team in college basketball has road troubles. If they fix the turnovers and bad starts, it won't matter as much where the game is played, because Virginia will be in a much better position to win.
Any other takeaways?
Brian S: The Hoos have a tough 3 game stretch coming up (@ GT, vs. Miami, @ FSU). If we win those games (or even 2 of 3), I think we will all feel better.
Eric: One last thing I'd like to add: I think part of the reason that people have been steaming over this loss more than any in the regular season in the past couple years is that basketball is supposed to be UVa's sport over VT while they have football, and UVa still lost. No matter what some people say, it's a rivalry, and rivalry losses will always sting.