What a turn of events for all Virginia fans! After a shocking loss to the Virginia Tech basketball team, Virginia was still dubbed as the number one team in the nation, beating out Michigan State and Villanova. It’s been since 1982 since such a feat was accomplished and this was during the great Ralph Sampson’s senior year at Virginia.
Virginia looks to bounce back from their stunning overtime loss to Virginia Tech in which they were up by five points with 39.1 seconds left. Senior guard Devon Hall cracked under the pressure, unable to hit all his three free-throws. Tech took advantage and scored on their last three possessions of the game, winning 61-60.
Virginia is now slated to travel to the Watsco Center in Coral Gables, Florida to take on the Miami Hurricanes, in what will be their hardest opponent remaining on their schedule. Virginia’s track record against the Hurricanes on the road is dreadful, posting a 1-7 record. Their last win was an 89-80 double-overtime win on January 3, 2015.
Preview and Prediction: Virginia Basketball vs Miami Hurricanes
It’s been a storied season for Virginia head coach Tony Bennett’s basketball team as they have been a team full of grit, determination, and charisma all season. They’ve shown little letdown when they face deficits on the road and have maintained composure when shots are falling in. The patience and efficiency that this team operates with is the exact reason for their number one ranking.
A key component of their elite play lies solely on their number one defense, holding opponents to an average of 52.8 points per game. It was a marvel to witness Virginia go to Cameron Indoor Stadium and hold the deadliest offense to 28 points below their season average. Bennett’s signature pack-line defense has stifled opponents and has made top players crumble tremendously. Players are actively pressuring the ball, utilizing quick lateral movement to plug in driving lanes, and there is always help.
Virginia’s offense needs a bounce back from Saturday, as they shot a poor 34.4 % on the floor and 28.9% behind the arc. Leading scorer Kyle Guy had an off night, shooting 23.8% on the floor and 21% from behind the arc. He needs to find a way to get out of this rut against Miami’s 42nd ranked defense that is quick on closeouts and will make sure every shot is contested. Miami will best 3-point defensive team that Virginia will experience, which calls for slight modifications on the offensive game-plan. Bennett will have a balanced offensive approach attacking the Hurricanes, working the ball in the post, at the elbow, and behind the three-point arc. Redshirt freshman De’Andre Hunter thrives in mid-range opportunities and will feast if he is given space.
The Hurricanes are looking to recover from their 70-72 road loss to Boston College, where there were multiple defensive lapses on switches and pick-and-roll plays. They did not have an answer for Boston College’s sophomore guard Ky Bowman, who had 24 points and 12 rebounds. His aggressiveness attacking the paint and scoring three-pointers on catch and shoot looked unstoppable. Their defense needs to be breathing over Virginia’s backcourt trio of Guy, Ty Jerome, and Devon Hall, who all average around 40% from behind the arc. It starts with consistent communication, knowing when to switch on screens and anticipate what is going to happen.
Besides poor shooting against Tech, Virginia lost by allowing 11 three-pointers. The pack-line defense struggles in guarding three-point shooters and it doesn’t help when they are shooting hot. Miami will need to spend a couple hours before the game, getting into a three-point groove because Virginia Tech was able to make contested three-point shots. Virginia’s closeouts were simply not quick enough to disrupt the three-ball.
Tony Bennett will be preaching patience and much better shot selection against the Hurricanes this week. The fact Virginia nearly still won that game with terrible shooting and hot three-point shooting from Tech speaks to how formidable this team is. Virginia will be in another back and forth battle against a hungry Miami team that wants to prove that they belong in March Madness. Miami Head Coach Jim Larrañaga will have his troops ready and motivated for a big-time game and opportunity to knock off the best team in the nation. This game will be determined in the last two minutes with Virginia knocking down free-throws. YES, THEY WILL MAKE THEM THIS TIME!