The Virginia Cavaliers gave their fans quite a ride during the 2013-14 college basketball season. Picked to finish fourth by most experts, the Cavaliers went 30-7 overall and 16-2 in the ACC and won both the regular-season and conference-tournament titles. A No. 1 seed in the East Region of the NCAA tournament, Virginia went out in the Sweet 16 by two points to Michigan State. It was a disappointing end for the Cavaliers, since No. 1 seeds usually should at least reach the regional final, but the overall season was quite the piece of work.
The good news for Virginia fans is that while seniors Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell will be significant losses, and reserve guard Teven Jones is transferring out of the program, the cupboard is far from bare in Charlottesville looking ahead. Here is an evaluation of the Cavaliers on both offense and defense, as well as overall.
OFFENSE: The No. 1 complaint for those not buying into head coach Tony Bennett‘s program in Charlottesville was the inconsistency and ineffectiveness on offense. There were still signs of that this season, as the Cavaliers went through six- and seven-minute stretches of games without field goals. But with Harris, the emergence of guards Malcolm Brogdon (leading scorer at 12.7 PPG) and London Perrantes, and the ability to get points from the wings and down low thanks to Justin Anderson, Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey, Virginia’s offense was much more successful than in past years and unlike those previous teams, Virginia wasn’t afraid to get out on the break when given the opportunity. UVA scored 72 and 75 points in late season wins over Duke (ACC tourney final) and Syracuse, respectively. A drawback of this unit was that the Cavaliers only shot 67 percent from the free-throw line.
DEFENSE: As the season went on, one of the most used phrases in college basketball became, “Virginia’s Pack Line Defense.” It helped produce several second-half runs that changed close games into UVA blowouts — including a 25-0 run vs. Notre Dame in Charlottesville that at the time, one national columnist called it the best basketball he’d seen all season. Virginia led the nation in scoring defense at 55.7 PPG, even though they only averaged 9.3 blocks plus steals per game. But timely rejections, usually by Anderson, keyed fast breaks and swung games in the Cavaliers’ favor. Virginia held 27 opponents to 60 points or less, including seven-straight to end February and start March as part of a 13-game winning streak (all in the ACC).
OVERALL: Virginia’s season was as good as any its had since the Ralph Sampson era in the early 1980s, even if other years (1995, regional final) led to a longer run in the NCAA tournament. The program took a giant step forward; it will now be on Bennett to turn up the recruiting and for those currently on the roster to make up for the loss of a guy like Harris, who while is scoring average dropped this season (down to 12 PPG), did a lot of everything to help Virginia win. A slight dip in the grade for losing in the Sweet 16 as a one-seed, but most experts regarded Michigan State as an under-seeded team as it was.
Twitter-Style, the 2013-14 Cavaliers in 140 (or less): “Finally, #UVA fans don’t have to hear about not winning the ACC Tournament since 1976. #WallyWalker”