Can Virginia find itself on the road?
Saturday's trip to Wake Forest seems imposing, but it's as good a time as any
On Tuesday, in the Bubble Watch comments, Deacon Brad left one of those insightful observations that are so painfully obvious you can’t believe you hadn’t already noticed the pattern. The subject was Virginia, and a young but once-promising Cavaliers team’s descent toward the bubble after three blowout losses in their last five games.
There are always ways to overintellectualize a team’s struggles, to parse and separate results from each other, to dive deep on some minor execution problem or lineup configuration. Virginia was too soft and young to play against Memphis’s very old and physical press. Virginia, post-Christmas, caught a Notre Dame program proudly resetting its culture after an embarrassing start to Micah Shrewsberry’s career. Virginia failed to force N.C. State’s guards into the usual diet of turnovers, yielding their chief defensive advantage in Raleigh. And so on: each loss can be taken on its own, processed in isolation, and maybe even explained away.
Buzzer by Eamonn Brennan is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Brad, on the other hand, offered up an Occam’s Razor for what has ailed Tony Bennett’s team in recent weeks:
“Virginia's path to a championship is clear: arrange to have all games played at JPJ,” Brad wrote. “They do not yet have the heart to win on the road.”
Wait a second. Let me just look at Virginia’s last three losses again there and — whoa. Maybe it really is just that simple.
The numbers certainly back it up: Virginia’s road splits and percentile ranks are not merely worse than their usual performance. If Virginia played every game on the road, they would be one of the worse teams in college basketball. To wit: