Virginia’s defense elite but offense an issue

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Virginia’s defense in November was historically good. The Cavaliers offense? Not so much.

Through the first seven games this season, Virginia is No. 1 in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com. Its adjusted efficiency number (78.9) is the best in Pomeroy’s database, which goes back to 2002, by almost five points. (Last year’s Texas Tech team, the national runner-up, had an 84.2 rating.)

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While KenPom numbers take into account the level of competition, the Cavaliers probably can’t keep up this pace when they play tougher foes, something that starts this week.

Virginia is No. 3 in Pomeroy’s rankings despite being ranked 91st in overall offense.

The Cavaliers beat Vermont 61-55 a couple weeks ago. No other opponent has scored more than 46. Syracuse, James Madison and Maine put up 34, 34 and 26, respectively against Virginia.

Tony Bennett’s teams have been known for defense. The 2017-18 Cavaliers were No. 1 in KenPom’s defensive rankings and No. 6 since 2002.

But last season’s national championship team was different. Sure, Virginia was fifth nationally on defensive, but its offense, featuring three future NBA players, trailed only Gonzaga’s among the 353 Division I teams.

The Cavaliers this season have trouble scoring. They’re a middling 147th in 2-point field goal percentage, an awful 338th from beyond the arc and struggle to get to the free-throw line.

Their offense and defense will be tested this week when they face Purdue and North Carolina.

Wednesday

Virginia at Purdue: This is art of the ACC-Big Ten Showdown on ESPN and you shouldn’t expect a lot of points.

The Boilermakers are 31st in offensive efficiency, and their almost-40 percent offensive rebounding rate (fifth best in the country) creates second-chance opportunities, but, with Carsen Edwards now in the NBA, they don’t shoot it particularly well.

Purdue also has the No. 7 defense. The Boilermakers should be 2-point favorites with a total of 98 (98!) tonight, according to KenPom.

Purdue is 4-3 and 3-4 against the spread this season. The undefeated Cavaliers are just 1-6 ATS. The under, however, is a combined 12-2 in the teams’ games this season.

Will Las Vegas linemakers really put up a sub-100 over/under UNDER

North Carolina at Ohio State: Before they face Virginia’s No. 1 defense, the Tar Heels travel to Columbus, Ohio, to take on the Buckeyes’ second-ranked defense.

Ohio State doesn’t force a lot of turnovers, but the Buckeyes are second in effective field-goal percentage on the defensive end.

Ohio State is 6-1 ATS and has covered five in a row. The under is 5-2 in Ohio State games and 6-1 in North Carolina games. OHIO STATE and UNDER

Sunday

North Carolina at Virginia: The Cavaliers get the Tar Heels at home as ACC play begins, but Carolina presents some different challenges, namely freshman Cole Anthony and Armando Bacot.

The 6-foot-11 Bacot had 23 points on 7-of-9 shooting and six blocks in the Tar Heels’ best win so far, a 78-74 victory over Oregon in the third-place game of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Anthony, who has been uneven since hitting 10 3’s in his first two games, had 19 against the Ducks.

Anthony needs to find a more consistent shooting touch and raise his assist rate. But against Virginia, that might be hard to do. UNDER

Last week: 2-2

Season: 10-6  

About the Author

Ched Whitney

Ched Whitney has been a journalist in Las Vegas since 1994. He worked for the Las Vegas Review-Journal for 18 years, where he was the paper’s art director for 12. Since becoming a freelancer in 2012, his work has appeared at ESPN.com, AOL, The Seattle Times and UNLV Magazine, among others. ​

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