Mar 1, 2014, 6:36 PM EDT
In their final non-conference game before the start of ACC play No. 12 Virginia turned in its worst performance of the season, losing 87-52 at Tennessee in a game that was never in doubt. On that evening Tony Bennett’s squad looked more like a team that would have to fight its way into the NCAA tournament than one that could potentially win the ACC.
But that changed in conference play, and on Saturday the Cavaliers beat No. 4 Syracuse 75-56 to win their first ACC regular season title since 1981. Trailing by a point at the half, Virginia pulled away in the second half thanks to a combination of stout half-court defense and much-improved offensive execution. In the game’s final 20 minutes Tony Bennett’s team shot 57.7% from the field and scored a staggering 1.55 points per possession, making seven of its 11 three-point attempts.
However to focus solely on the second-half perimeter shooting when discussing how Virginia was able to execute so well against the Syracuse zone would be a mistake. The Cavaliers did shoot 8-for-16 for the afternoon, but they didn’t settle for many of those looks. Malcolm Brogdon, who finished the game 19 points, five rebounds and five assists, proved to be valuable in his ability to attack the Syracuse defense at the foul line area as both a passer and a scorer. Freshman point guard London Perrantes was also key, dishing out seven assists and turning the ball over just twice.
As a team Virginia assisted on 19 of its 27 made field goals and turned the ball over six times, winning the turnover battle against a Syracuse team that has excelled in that department for much of the season. And Virginia’s performance on the boards shouldn’t be overlooked either, as they both took away one of Syracuse’s strengths (offensive rebounding) and made the Orange pay on the other end.
Syracuse entered Saturday ranked second in the ACC in offensive rebounding percentage, but they managed just ten offensive rebounds and ten second-chance points. By comparison Virginia corralled 13 offensive rebounds (Akil Mitchell and Mike Tobey combined for ten) and converted those opportunities into 21 second-chance points, doing much of that work (nine offensive rebounds) in the first half. The Orange were missing a key piece in the second half with Jerami Grant (back) having to sit out, but the Cavaliers simply outperformed them on both ends of the floor.
Virginia has multiple players capable of taking the reins, something that wasn’t the case a season ago. Joe Harris, while not required to score as much as he did last year, remains a threat and the return of Brogdon has certainly helped to alleviate some of that pressure.
Perrantes has been outstanding in running the offense, making sound decisions and displaying a level of maturity you don’t always see from freshman point guards. And in the front court Mitchell (12 points, nine rebounds) and Tobey (11 points, eight rebounds) both played well on Saturday, with Justin Anderson adding 11 points off the bench.
Virginia looked incapable of winning the ACC on that late-December Monday night in Knoxville, but as the season’s worn on the Cavaliers have shown otherwise. On Saturday Virginia achieved that goal, but there’s anything to be taken from the result its that they’re capable of doing more.
Mar 29, 2015, 2:24 PM EDT
Dave Leitao is the leading candidate to become the head coach at DePaul for a second time.
Mar 29, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Five-star big man Ivan Rabb makes a clutch free throw to win a California state title.
Mar 29, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
Wisconsin and Kentucky get to play again after last season’s thrilling National Semifinal.
Mar 29, 2015, 8:37 AM EDT
The label of “best coach yet to reach a Final Four” will remain Miller’s for another offseason, whether that’s fair or not.
Mar 29, 2015, 12:50 AM EDT
The Big Ten champion and SEC champion move on to Indy.
Mar 28, 2015, 11:07 PM EDT
The Wildcats knocked off a tough Notre Dame team.
Mar 28, 2015, 8:35 PM EDT
Dekker scored 20 of his 27 points in the second half at Wisconsin beat Arizona in the Elite Eight for the second straight year.
Mar 28, 2015, 8:34 PM EDT
Frank got a little funky after Wisconsin’s win over Arizona.
Mar 28, 2015, 8:27 PM EDT
This is too funny.
Mar 28, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT
Barnes coached at Texas for 17 seasons.
Mar 28, 2015, 5:32 PM EDT
So Andrew Harrison was a grown man in middle school?
Arrests made as Michigan State fans gather, set fires near off-campus apartments after Sweet 16 win (VIDEO)
Mar 28, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT
Some Michigan State students got a little too rowdy following a win over Oklahoma.
Mar 28, 2015, 1:48 PM EDT
The Citadel hired away the head coach of a Southern Conference rival.
Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey on college hoops: ‘It’s absolute torture watching some of these games’ (AUDIO)
Mar 28, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey had some strong words on the current state of college basketball.
Mar 28, 2015, 12:17 PM EDT
Frank Kaminsky’s path to stardom may not follow that of last year’s national Player of the Year winner, Doug McDermott, but it’s one that many players hope to navigate during their own time in school.
Tom Izzo blames himself, new Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart movie on Michigan State’s sluggish Sweet 16 start
Mar 28, 2015, 10:55 AM EDT
Michigan State might have been the only people in the country watching “Get Hard” on Friday afternoon.
Former oddsmaker believes Kentucky would be underdog against all-time great college basketball teams
Mar 28, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT
Kentucky might finish the 2014-15 season unblemished, but how do they stack up against some of the best teams in college basketball history?
Mar 28, 2015, 12:52 AM EDT
Get caught up on all of Friday’s NCAA tournament action.
Mar 28, 2015, 12:27 AM EDT
The schedule for Sunday’s Elite 8 games.
Mar 28, 2015, 12:23 AM EDT
Second straight Elite 8 appearance for Tom Izzo and Co.
- Wisconsin vs. Kentucky: The Final Four rematch we deserved to see 3
- No. 2 Arizona, Sean Miller’s quest to reach Final Four once again falls short 5
- Andrew Harrison’s late free throws send No. 1 Kentucky to the Final Four 60
- Sam Dekker, Frank Kaminsky catch fire as No. 1 Wisconsin beats No. 2 Arizona 9
- Rick Barnes is no longer the head coach at Texas 14
- Frank Kaminsky’s growth results in individual and team benefits for No. 1 Wisconsin 3
- Tourney Snacks: Duke-Gonzaga, Louisville-Michigan State advance to Elite 8 11
- Andrew Harrison’s late free throws send No. 1 Kentucky to the Final Four (63)
- Kentucky’s John Calipari is the National Coach of the Year, and it’s not close (36)
- Kentucky responds to Daxter Miles Jr.’s pregame comments (30)
- Updated tournament records: Big Ten, SEC champions headed to Indy (25)
- West Virginia freshman on Kentucky: ‘They’re going to be 36-1′ (20)