Conference play in the ACC has been interesting to say the least. With No. 4 Syracuse, No. 6 Duke and No. 19 North Carolina all being interesting teams to watch for varying reasons, those three teams received much of the attention nationally. But none of those three currently lead the ACC. The leader is No. 12 Virginia, which moved to 15-1 in conference play with a 65-40 win over Miami in Charlottesville.
The reigning ACC champions lost a lot of production from a season ago, and as a result the general strategy for Jim Larrañaga has been to slow games to a crawl. That did not work against the ACC’s best defensive team, as the Cavaliers limited the Hurricanes to 26% shooting from the field and 0-for-12 from beyond the arc with Erik Swoope and Rion Brown scoring 25 of Miami’s 40 points.
Tony Bennett’s pack line defense has done a good job throughout conference play of both cutting off driving lanes and challenging shots, with Virginia ranking first in the ACC in field-goal percentage defense (39.1%) and second in three-point percentage defense (32.3%) in conference play. With points per game (Virginia’s allowed just 54.0 ppg in league play) being as much a factor of pace as it is execution, those percentages do a better job of telling the story as to how effective the Cavaliers have been on that end of the floor.
Virginia’s also performed well offensively, and guards Malcolm Brogdon and London Perrantes are two reasons why. Joe Harris hasn’t scored at the level he did last season, earning first-team All-ACC honors as a result, but that hasn’t been a significant issue due in part to those two. Of all the players in the ACC just one, Brogdon (15 points against Miami), has reached double figures in every conference game this season. And Perrantes, who added a career-high 15 to go along with four assists on Wednesday night, is averaging less than one turnover per game and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 5.2 in ACC play.
Is Virginia being overlooked nationally? A good case can be made that they are, and how the Cavaliers performed in losses to Wisconsin (48-38) and Tennessee (87-52) may have something to do with that. But at 15-1 and a victory away from claiming the ACC regular season title outright, it should be clear that Virginia’s a team to be taken seriously entering March.