Virginia's Defense Makes Them Legitimate Contenders in the ACC

By Sean Labar

The ACC has always been one of the most competitive conferences in college basketball, and on Tuesday night the Virginia Cavaliers showed that they can hang with the rest of the pack, yes there was a pun intended.

UVA topped No.19 North Carolina State 58-55 on a nationally televised showdown.

This is the kind of win that can alter the course of the season for the Cavaliers. At 5-2, they are now tied with Duke at second place in the ACC.

Virginia came into Tuesday’s game as the stingiest defense in the conference with their opponents averaging only 51.1 points per game. N.C. State has been known all season for their high-scoring, explosive offensive attack, and the Cavaliers shut it down. Tony Bennett’s squad is ranks 344th nationally in adjusted tempo, which means only three D-1 schools are playing slower. Clearly the head coach in Charlottesville has found a recipe for success.

UVA has struggled to find an offensive identity all season, but their ability to keep the scoreboard low will pay huge dividends moving forward. On Tuesday however, guard Joe Harris managed to drop a quiet 22 points, while forward Akil Mitchell put up another 14. Though the numbers aren’t overwhelming, this is the kind of production Virginia’s offense needs to win on a consistent basis.

The Cavaliers won’t have an easy run down the stretch. They will see Maryland twice (who can win on any given night), Miami on the road, and Duke at home.

If they can sweep the Terrapins, win the majority of their conference schedule, and pull out a victory against either the Hurricanes or Blue Devils, I think they stand a legitimate chance to earn a NCAA tournament bid.


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