BOZICH | ACC's most underrated (Louisville) and overrated (Virginia) meet Saturday
Virginia was picked to finish second in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season. Louisville was picked to place seventh. That's not the way the season has unfolded.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – You can see whatever you want to see when you look at the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball standings. This is what I see:
Virginia is firmly in the running for recognition as the ACC’s most overrated team.
Louisville is scrapping for recognition as the league’s most underrated team.
The Cavaliers were picked to finish second in an ACC Media Day vote. They’re currently parked in a three-way tie for fifth with Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. (Not guilty, folks. I didn’t attend).
Louisville was picked to finish seventh. The Cardinals are second. (See above.)
A Louisville victory over the Cavaliers Saturday at 1 p.m. in the KFC Yum! Center would only strengthen that narrative – and all the major indicators suggest Rick Pitino’s team should win and push to an unexpected 7-1 start in the league.
And Virginia? The Cavaliers have already lost more ACC games (three) than they lost in 2015 or 2014 while winning back-to-back regular-season titles.
“I wouldn’t put too much into that (ACC record),” Pitino said. “I wouldn’t put too much into it because we’ve got to play Virginia twice, Duke twice, Carolina. We’ve got to play at Pittsburgh, at Miami. Sounds nauseating.”
Pitino should not have to reach for the Zofran until Monday when North Carolina, the ACC’s last unbeaten team, visits.
This Virginia team is not the Virginia team that lost two regular-season games and was a two-seed for the NCAA Tournament last season. Nor is it the Virginia squad that was the top seed in the East Regional two seasons ago.
That 2014 team was fifth nationally in defensive efficiency. The 2015 team was tops defensively, limiting teams to 86.2 points per 100 possessions.
The Cavaliers look a few slide-drills shy of a load. Tony Bennett has even asked his guys to play a few possessions of zone. Heck, Virginia starts two guys who are not averaging five points per game. That’s strange, even for Virginia.
George Washington scored 73 on the Cavaliers. Virginia Tech scored 70. Florida State scored 69. Georgia Tech put up 68.
Oh, yeah – all four of those teams beat the Cavaliers, who are 16-4.
Virginia has tumbled to 46th in defensive efficiency, allowing 10 more points per 100 possessions than the Cavaliers did last season. Pitino was critical of his team’s defense this week, but Louisville ranks 40 spots ahead of Virginia in Pomeroy’s defensive efficiency numbers.
There is more. Louisville ranks third nationally in defensive field goal percentage. Opponents are making less than 37 percent of their shots. Virginia is barely average in that category. The Cavaliers rank 170th. Opponents have made better than 43 percent of their shots.
This is not the Virginia team that limited Louisville to 13 points in the first half in Charlottesville last season. Neither is it the same Louisville team. Nobody on Pitino’s roster scored last season at Virginia. The Cards only have 19 points (Quentin Snider, 11; Chinanu Onuaku, 4; the injured Mangok Mathiang, 2; Anas Mahmoud, 2) back from the team that beat UVa here.
Virginia has three wins that are more impressive than any game Louisville has won – by 11 over Villanova, by 16 over West Virginia and by eight over Miami.
Home game. Home game. Home game.
Virginia has lost more road games (four) than the Cavaliers have won (two). In other words, Virginia is like everybody this season – more flawed than usual.
Jeff Sagarin’s Predictor formula likes the Cards by 7.4. Ken Pomeroy’s formula says Louisville by six with a 75 percent win probability. VegasInsiders.com posted that Louisville opened as a six-point favorite.
Pitino remains a Virginia fan. He has said many times that he believes Bennett is one of the best young coaches in the game.
“They’re playing a little faster,” Pitino said. “They’re a terrific offensive basketball team. They can score in bunches; they’re a great perimeter shooting team. (Virginia power forward Anthony) Gill on the inside is lethal, very difficult to stop.”
But if Louisville stops them, Monday night against North Carolina becomes the Game of the Year in the Atlantic Coast Conference. And Virginia can forget about a third straight ACC regular-season title.
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