ON THE ROAD TO VIRGINIA (WDRB) – Final thoughts on Louisville’s game at Virginia Wednesday at 7 p.m. as Katie George and I make our way to John Paul Jones Arena for WDRB.

The Cards opened as a 12-point underdog against the Cavaliers, but the number dropped to 9 ½ Wednesday morning.

If David Padgett’s team intends to contend for the Atlantic Coast Conference title, it’s a Must Win because (at 9-0) Virginia has already built a two-game advantage over the second-place Cardinals (6-2) in the ACC race. (And the Cavaliers have a win at Duke in their pockets).

*Beware the Three-Point Shot

Coach Tony Bennett’s Family wrote the book on the Pack Line Defense, the alignment credited with Virginia’s annual status as one of the nation’s premier defensive teams.

I have not read the book, but I believe I can summarize the strategy in several sentences:

Cut off all driving lines. Keep opposing teams from scoring at the rim. Contest shots with hard close outs. Trick teams into settling for three-point shots. Inspire frustration with long possessions.

I checked the numbers from the five games Louisville has lost to Virginia the last three seasons. This is what I found.

The Cards’ shooting percentage on two-pointers has been poor but not dreadful --40.7 percent (70-172).

The Cards’ shooting percentage on three-pointers has been dreadful but not poor  -- 22.8 percent (18-79).

Don’t settle for threes, no matter how open they appear.

*How Have Others Beaten Virginia?

It’s only happened once this season – at West Virginia early in the season.

The Mountaineers actually took half their attempts (25) from distance. They made 10. No secret there. A 40-percent three-point performance will beat many teams.

Remember, however, that Virginia lost two of its last three, six of its last 11 and eight of its last 15 in 2017. That explains why the Cavaliers were ranked 27th, 11 spots behind Louisville, in the Associated Press college basketball pre-season Top 25.

Virginia scored only 39 in its season-ending NCAA Tournament defeat to Florida last season. The issue? The Cavaliers went 1 for 15 from distance while Florida made 8 of 21.

Virginia also lost to Notre Dame in the ACC Tournament. Nothing special about the Pack-Line the defense the Cavaliers played in Brooklyn. Notre Dame made 19 of 29 of its two-point attempts – 65.5 percent.

It can be done.

*More Props for Tony Bennett and His Staff

Some recruiting research: I checked the 247Sports composite rankings for the last four recruiting classes at Virginia, Duke and Louisville.

Here are how the classes ranked within the Atlantic Coast Conference:

Virginia: 14th in 2017; 4th in 2016; 9th in 2015 and 7th in 2014.

Duke: first all four years.

Louisville: second in 2017; 13th in 2016; second in 2015 and second in 2014.

Draw your own conclusions.

*More Numbers

In the Cards’ five losses to Virginia, they have averaged 49.6 points per game. They have failed to score 50 three times and they were unable to score more than 55 in any of the losses.

The game Wednesday will be Louisville’s 65 in the ACC. The Cards have scored 55 or less eight times – five against Virginia, one against Georgia Tech, one against Duke and one against Miami.

Virginia is the only team to limit Louisville to less than 50 points in the ACC.

Two ACC teams have scored 60 or more on Virginia this season – Syracuse 61 and Duke 63. Four teams have scored less than 50.


Katie George: Virginia 72, Louisville 63.

Rick Bozich: Virginia 61, Louisville 52.

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