What a difference one offseason can make. Last year, many fans had a hard time appreciating the Virginia Cavaliers despite the fact that they were one of the better teams in the country. It wasn’t that people hated winning basketball, either. It was that Virginia coach, Tony Bennett, would prefer to smother opponents with defense than wow anyone with entertaining offense.
In fact, since Bennett took over the program in 2009, but before this season, Virginia had only scored over 80 points 15 times in over 200 Bennett coached games. That’s not exactly a lot. However, as the Cavaliers are now seven games into their season, they have eclipsed that magical 80 points in a game five times.
A rather dramatic improvement, it seems. Then again, early-season success can often times be misleading for various reasons. Specifically in areas where teams are historically ho-hum performers. I mean, you know…
There are a slew of reasons for an improved Virginia offense. Although, to be completely honest, a lot of it has to do with the rather easy schedule the Cavilers have started their season with. That seems rather evident now, especially after the 64-58 win against Ohio State on Tuesday saw the “improved” Cavaliers’ offense muster a mere 64 points. That said, they won the game — which is kind of the point of playing the sport. So that seems a little bit more important anyway.
To be fair, Virginia’s improved offense hasn’t been the sole result of playing cupcakes. It isn’t smoke and daggers, either. Bennett has his team playing with a slightly faster tempo, which has provided some of his better offensive players more attempts at getting buckets. And they haven’t let him down, as Virginia has been an efficient basketball team so far.
Through the first six games of the season (official team stats through seven were not available at time of publishing), Virginia is making 57 percent of all its two-point attempts, over 38 percent from three, and is averaging over 17 assists per game — compared to only a shade over 7 turnovers a contest.
While the sample size is so incredibly small, with the level of competition being nowhere near comparable in an honest sense, all those numbers (except for the three-point percentage) dwarf last season’s. More importantly, unless you hate offense, it seems as if Bennett will allow Virginia to play with a slightly better pace this season.
If nothing else, Virginia hoops might end up being legitimately solid picture-box viewing.
But wait… there’s more.
Virginia’s success hasn’t been strictly because Bennett has continued to employ a group of defensive-minded athletes (still a top 10 defense in the nation, though) and also allowed his players to play with a little more pace.
The Cavaliers have the benefit of featuring Malcolm Brogdon at guard.
Now a senior, Brogdon has always been a very good player. However, with Bennett taking the governor off the offense, he has been downright beastly. In seven games, the guard is averaging over 17 points per game on over 46 percent shooting from the floor, making 16 of his 39 three-point attempts.
Brogdon also continues to do everything else well. As per the laws of playing for Bennett, he’s a good defender, is averaging over 3 assists and 4 rebounds per game, all while limiting his turnovers to a tad over one an outing.
Honestly, he is good and well worth your time. Don’t let last season’s inept-at-scoring Cavaliers keep you from enjoying Brogdon in his last season. Alas, I digress…
Regardless if the offense that Virginia has showcased this early in the season is sustainable or not, the college basketball community already knows that it will be the defense that makes the Cavs a dangerous team in the ACC and possibly come March.
Plus, the Cavaliers have the added luxury of being able to rely on Brogdon to do special things on that side of the ball if needed. This is something that was highlighted during their victory over the Buckeyes. With Virginia’s offense not being as high-powered as it was in the previous six games, only managing to score 64 points, and without the services of a very good London Perrantes, Brogdon was responsible for over a third of all team points. He finished the game with 22 points, two assists, and added in six rebounds for good measure.
So, yeah, it is probably less likely that Virginia will have some sort of offensive-awakening this season as it’s more probable that Brogdon is realer than Evander Holyfield (please get my really bad attempt at humor, young humans). An eater of souls, if you would.
Now, if the Cavalier’s offense is actually better, even if it isn’t ‘this’ much better, the rest of the programs in the country best take notice, because they will be as scary a team the country has to offer.