To preview tonight's game between the Eagles and the Virginia Cavaliers, we welcome Brian Leung of the Cavs' blog Streaking the Lawn to the site for Five Good Minutes. Our questions and his answers are below.
BC Interruption: After getting off to a fast start winning 14 of their first 15 games, Virginia is just 1-2 in their last three games, including a disappointing 47-45 loss to in-state rival -- and previously winless in ACC play -- Virginia Tech. What happened against the Hokies?
Streaking The Lawn: I've been saying this since well before the loss, but Virginia Tech was the best 0-4 team in the country. I mean honestly, did anyone look at the Hokies, see the 0-4 start, and think, "Wow, this is the worst team in the ACC"? I didn't think so.
Still, I have a hard time looking back at that game and finding things that the Hokies did right. As far as I can tell, the Cavaliers simply beat themselves. They missed seven of 13 free throws in the second half, and shot precisely 7.1% from beyond the arc. That's 1-8 in the first half, 0-6 in the second. You'll lose to any team - ACC or otherwise - if you keep that up. UVa actually only had five buckets in the entire first half.
When your offense isn't running (including your supposed shooting guard going 0-for-7 on the night), that becomes a problem.
BCI: At the beginning of the year, Grantland ran a piece asking whether Virginia is the long-awaited third team in the ACC. A bit premature, no? Where do you think UVa falls in the long-term ACC picture?
STL: Yes, a bit premature. The article came out before the Hoos had even entered ACC play, where as we all know, it's any team, any night. What's more, Virginia didn't exactly have what people consider a "challenging" schedule. The only teams worth noting are Michigan, No. 15 at the time and still a top-25 team, LSU, who has been playing about average in the SEC, and Oregon, who remains 15-5 and on a 4-game win-streak.
At the end of the season, I expect Virginia to still be in the top four of the conference. Before the season, I would have placed North Carolina and Duke at the top, Florida State a clear No. 3, and Virginia at the head of a middling pack of N.C. State, Virginia Tech and Miami. I think Virginia has fought its way out of the middling pack, while Duke, Carolina and Florida State have all started to blur together.
BCI: Virginia is known for its defense, having held all but two opponents this season under 60 points. What has been the secret to the Cavaliers defensive success?
STL: Tony Bennett is the secret to Virginia's defensive success. He's done a fantastic job at Virginia so far getting players to buy into his system. The Hoos' pack-line defense, which basically crowds an imaginary line a couple feet inside the 3-point arc, causes all sorts of congestion in the lane. Simply, it's hard to get an easy layup, which in turn means that, unless you're 100% comfortable launching threes all night long, you're not going to score that frequently. Virginia is also willing to forego the offensive rebound altogether in order to hurry back on defense to prevent any transition points.
BCI: Earlier this season, BC fell to Rhode Island behind a big performance by Virginia transfer Billy Baron. My understanding is that that year's recruiting class has been decimated by departures. Will this be a factor for Virginia going forward?
STL: I'm not too concerned about these transfers. No one really knows everything that went on behind the scenes, but Baron left, allegedly, simply because he was homesick. With this recruiting class, Bennett's first, I have to assume that when Bennett recruited these guys, he must have promised a lot of playing time, particularly since we had largely no talent on the court then. Also worth considering is that a bunch of 18- and 19-year-olds don't really want to play at glacier's pace. They want the high-flying shoot outs, because how else are you going to get the chance to do a one-handed windmill jam?
I don't expect this to be a problem in the years to come, but I do expect this to catch up with us as the season as the competition gets tougher and the need for depth increases. Virginia has only eight able-bodied scholarship players right now. That's going to make games like Florida State and North Carolina very tough.
BCI: Thursday's BC-Virginia game is a late, 9 PM start. Will the late start be a factor in this game? Do you expect attendance to take a hit due to the 9 PM tip?
STL: I'm not expecting this to be much of a factor at all. Our past few weekday games have been relatively late - an 8 p.m. tip against Georgia Tech and a 9 p.m. tip at Duke - and we played very well in both games. The attendance will be affected more by the fact that it's a weeknight game than anything else. The game won't be at capacity, but the way John Paul Jones Arena is built, it's fairly steep, so even a two-thirds full arena can sound pretty loud if given the right circumstances.
BCI: Last one. Prediction time. Who ya got? What's the final score?
STL: Virginia's got too much talent for BC to keep up with. The Eagles's two ACC wins have been by two points each, while their three losses have been pretty harsh double-digit losses. Virginia takes this one, 68-52.
For more on the Virginia Cavaliers, be sure to stop by Streaking The Lawn.