Virginia has had a brilliant run over the last three seasons, earning a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the NCAAs in each year. The Cavaliers lost a total of nine league games over those three seasons; this year, they’ve already lost seven. So it’s a down year by recent standards, but no doubt this is still a good team.
And also the most boring, basketball-hating, gross, disgusting basketball team ever invented. Ugh Curse you, Tony Bennett, curse your hideous grandma-on-the-highway pace of play. At least NC State only has to endure it once this year.
The Cavaliers rank 350th out of 351 teams in adjusted tempo, at 59.4 possessions per 40 minutes. That is nine possessions/40 below the national average. In league play, they are suppressing teams to a ghastly 61 possessions per 40. That is disgusting and should not be encouraged.
As usual, Virginia’s defense is elite—the Cavs rank 2nd nationally in defensive efficiency. But their offense has taken a significant slide, which is especially marked given that ACC offenses in general have trended up this season. Turns out it’s pretty tough to replace Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill, both of whom were highly efficient, high-volume scorers.
Last season the Cavs averaged 1.11 points per possession in ACC games, which ranked fourth in the league. This year, they’re a shade under 1.04 PPP, which ranks 12th. They’ve gone from the best shooting team in the league to one of the worst.
The burden of replacing possessions lost to graduation has largely fallen on London Perrantes, Marial Shayok, and Kyle Guy. Perrantes thrived last season as a secondary option, finishing with a 57.9 eFG% while hitting nearly 49% of his three-pointers. With his usage way up out of necessity in 2017, his shooting stats have dipped significantly—not to the point where he is a liability, but still it’s a big drop.
Shayok is taking nearly 30% of UVA’s shots while he is on the floor, which is similar to Brogdon’s workload last season. But Shayok was never going to be a solid proxy for Brogdon, never mind the fact that their styles of play are different. Shayok isn’t nearly the same perimeter threat, nor as good at the free throw line. He doesn’t help UVA’s offense flow in the same way Brogdon did. Basically, Malcolm Brogdon was exceptionally good, while Shayok is merely solid.
And Guy looks like a difference-maker down the road but right now doesn’t have a ton of value beyond his three-point shooting. The depth of reliable scoring on this UVA club is just not what it has been in recent years.
Still, there’s that defense. Virginia’s pack line is incredible at stifling paint production and has been for years now. The Cavs block shots and otherwise force plenty of missed twos, and they also shut down the defensive boards better than any other team in the ACC. NC State has had no answers for this challenge over the last few years.