Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, March 13, 2015 at 7:00 AM
Even though the Virginia Cavaliers are 29-2 after coasting past Florida State Thursday afternoon, there are many fans and pundits skeptical about the team’s true national championship hopes heading into Friday Night’s ACC tournament semifinal with North Carolina.
*Virginia keeps “winning ugly,” which is hard to fall in love with
*Virginia fell asleep while blowing a bit lead vs. FSU, before surging late
*Virginia lost last week at Louisville, who just lost yesterday to North Carolina
We’ve seen this often in the past, in a way that’s BAD news for Virginia. Teams who lack electricity on offense have trouble pulling away from good teams in tournament action. Then, they play nervous down the stretch because they’re not used to playing nailbiters. Virginia did regain its composure Thursday vs. FSU. But…FSU isn’t a Dance-caliber team!
So…a big test Friday night in Greensboro for the Cavaliers…facing a team that will have home stated advantage with the crowd just a day after earning a hardfought victory over Louisville. Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about this matchup.
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency
Virginia: 112.9 per 100 possessions (#22 in the nation)
N. Carolina: 114.6 per 100 possessions (#13 in the nation)
Several weeks ago…in fact…while previewing a Virgina/North Carolina game, we noted that the Cavaliers had a top 10 offense to go with its top 10 defense in terms of adjusted per-possession efficiency (as tabulated by college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy). A slump down the stretch dropped them out of the top 20…and raised some questions about whether you’ll be able to score on command when needed in a tournament structure. Yes, they can get temporarily hot against NIT caliber teams like Syracuse (banned from the postseason this year) and Florida State. The Cavs enter this game with the lesser of the two offenses.
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
Virginia: 85.2 per 100 possessions (#2 in the nation)
N. Carolina: 94.5 per 100 possessions (#40 in the nation)
Of course, Virginia shines on defense…and will have a big edge on this side of the ball vs. the Tar Heels. Virginia won impressively in Chapel Hill not too long ago because Carolina became very mistake prone in half court sets vs. this very smart defense. Big edge to the favored Cavs. North Carolina will have to be much smarter with the ball this time around.
N. Carolina: #15
Normally, handicappers would have expected North Carolina’s super-fast pace to take Virginia out of its comfort zone in Chapel Hill. Instead, Carolina self-destructed while Virginia kept laying in easy buckets. A huge extreme here…and Carolina may be able to use a home crowd edge to boost pace. They need to play clean at pace to have a chance. If Virginia can keep things slow, then Carolina’s #40 defense is going to be in some trouble.
Against the Spread
N. Carolina: 18-14-1
Virginia sleazed a cover vs. Florida State…but is still close to being a 60% cover team this season. The market has been skeptical because winning ugly doesn’t impress oddsmakers and sharps either. North Carolina really comes and goes. You saw that in the home-and-home with Duke, where the Heels were more impressive on the road than at home. One is five games over .500 against the number, while the other is four games over. No edge to be seen there.
Let’s take a quick look at key boxscore stats from Thursday:
*VIRGINIA’s great defense held Florida State to 33% shooting, including 3 of 17 on three-pointers. Rebounding was a factor, with the Cavs enjoying a 31-23 advantage. The biggest negative was in the turnover department, with 14 giveaways registering as a high number in a slow tempo game. Too sloppy! Virginia won 58-44 as a 13-point favorite.
*NORTH CAROLINA’s defense shone in this one, though some of that can be blamed on Louisville missing open looks. The Heels held the Cards to 35% from the floor, including 4 of 22 on three-pointers. Carolina reaching 70 points is a positive against Louisville’s stellar defensive unit. They were helped by a 5 of 11 performance on treys…which isn’t normally a strong suit. Given the caliber of opposition, Carolina’s 70-60 win over Louisville was the more impressive of the two results. Does that foreshadow a possible upset?
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Virginia/North Carolina showed up as part of the NETWORK package Friday. But, there should be big play options all over the board…
Day Session: Quarterfinal Action from the Big 10, A10, AAC, and SEC
Night Session: Marquee Semifinals from multiple Major and Mid-Major conferences
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