Virginia isn’t “bad for basketball,” and anyone who matters isn’t calling Virginia Basketball “boring” any longer. If you’ve been living on Twitter and Facebook, the UVA fan base will have you believing that, when the national media writes about the No. 2 team in the country—if they write about them at all—it’s actually a backhanded compliment.
But we’ve got breaking news. This chip-on-the-shoulder conspiracy theory is something Virginia fans will need to work through if we’re going to look like a fan base of the nation’s top-rated defense and perennial contender. If you look around, there is actual love surrounding the Virginia Cavaliers basketball program coming from national outlets. So, let’s take a look around the inter webs and see what folks are saying about the Hoos.
ESPN: The Best things I have seen so far Volume II - Jay Bilas
In this article where Jay Bilas hands out mid-season superlatives, the Cavaliers check in with not one, not two, but three mentions. The praise from Bilas is pretty effusive, and despite Bilas generally being considered a Virginia fan, it’s the most love I’ve ever seen towards the Hoos from the former Dukie. He highlights Virginia as one of his five best teams, hails the Hoos as the best defensive team in the country, and names Isaiah Wilkins one of the nation’s most underrated players. The only area he fell short was that he probably could have put the entire Virginia starting five on the underrated team.
ACC Sports: Is UVA’s De’andre Hunter the ACC’s Top 6th Man? - Brian Geisinger
Here Brian Geisinger of ACCsports.com looks into the season Virginia’s freshman sensation De’andre Hunter is putting together. More specifically, he highlights how Hunter has seemed to come into his own once ACC play has begun. His conclusion isn’t one Virginia fans were probably hoping for calling Virginia Tech’s Chris Clarke the frontrunner for the 6th man of the year award, but he does suggest that Clarke’s win isn’t a given and should Hunter keep up his torrid pace, the tide will turn sooner rather than later.
ESPN: Does Virginia have the defense of the decade? It’s possible - John Gasaway
Anyone who has listened to the Streaking the Lawn Podcast knows that our very own Caroline Darney has been tiptoeing around this question for several weeks. Here, John Gasaway notes this defense is currently the best according to Ken Pomeroy in the 17 year history of his stats. He goes into depth primarily discussing Virginia’s turnover rate as the prime contributor to the gaudy numbers. He points out that given Virginia’s low possession totals and 25% turnover rate, teams are being forced to get all their scoring in a mere 45 trips down the floor. He also gives us a great idea that may or may not show up on a Streaking the Lawn T-Shirt when he says “By the way, I will not rest until I see “45 CHANCES” on UVa warm-up gear.”
The Athletic: The secret behind Virginia’s suffocating defense? Meet the pack line - Dana O’Neil
First off, The Athletic is a subscription based site, but the content is terrific. If you’re not already a subscriber, this article is worth signing up for the free trial or by downloading the App, you can get up to five articles a month. Now, onto the piece. Dana O’Neil paints a picture of how Tony Bennett “inherited” albeit reluctantly the defensive acumen of his father, Dick Bennett. Some highlights are a story Devon Hall retells where the senior questions “am I even good at basketball” and O’Neil presents an analogy for the pack line as it’s like “being pecked to death by a dull-beaked chicken.”
CBS: Why, oh why, did we ever doubt a Tony Bennett Virginia team in the first place? - Gary Parrish
In what has been a popular mea culpa across the college basketball landscape, Gary Parrish not only apologizes for not ranking UVA in his preseason Top 25-and-1, but he goes on to say that as long as Tony Bennett is the coach, he will never make that mistake again. He begins by highlighting the reasons why he didn’t rank the Hoos in his initial rankings, which for all intents and purposes are very reasonable...for most programs. But he goes on to say that given Bennett’s ability to coach and the type of player he brings to Charlottesville, the foundation for success is there, and it’s not going anywhere any time in the near future.
ESPN: Clash of styles between Duke, Virginia in ACC showdown - Mark Schlabach
While the headline looks as if it’s a preview of Saturday’s game between Virginia and the Duke Blue Devils, it’s really an introduction of the Hoos defensive prowess with a little highlight of Duke’s potent offense sprinkled in. You could almost call it a piece on Virginia with Duke in the headline to attract a couple more clicks. One thing of note Schlabach points out is that Duke hasn’t scored less than 52 in a game in Cameron Indoor since 1982. That was Coach Krzyzewski’s second year at the helm in Durham. While I won’t get my hopes up, how sweet would it be for this to be a Pack Line Pledge game and make history in the process.
By no means was this an exhaustive list. There’s plenty of love around the country for our Cavaliers, even it took three months. And who knows, if Virginia gets the win at Duke Saturday, can you imagine what everyone will be saying then?