Does History Reveal an Important Tip for Virginia-Miami ACC Clash?

Rainman M.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018 1:01 PM UTC

Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018 1:01 PM UTC

Miami (18-6) hosts No. 1 Virginia (23-2) Tuesday at 9 ET. The visiting Cavs are favored by 5.5 with a total set at 119. Can Virginia bounce back from its deflating home loss to rival Virginia Tech?

No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers at Miami HurricanesFree NCAAB Pick: Under 119Best Line Offered: Bookmaker

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It may be that time of year again for Virginia’s offense. Last season, UVA lost a nail-biter on Feb.12 at rival Virginia Tech and commenced a disturbing slump in which it produced 55, 41 and 48 points in its next three games, respectively. If history is destined to repeat itself, Virginia’s offense, which shot 43.5% from two and 28.9% from three this past Saturday at VT, is in trouble.

Even though the effectiveness of Virginia’s offense hangs up in the air, that of its defense does not. Virginia’s "Pack Line Defense“ ranks No. 1 in KenPom’s efficiency and in the Top 50 in turnover percentage, opposing two-point and three-point percentage, block percentage and steal percentage. See how it operates below and notice the constant pressure on the ball, how opponents struggle to find a comfortable shot.

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That defense is designed to direct the opposing offense towards the middle of the basket, where help from defenders is ready, or to force up a contested jump shot away from the basket. Virginia has allowed more than 60 points just three times in 13 conference games (excepting overtime) and never more than 65. NCAAB oddsmakers have struggled to account for how good Virginia’s defense is: Its 'over/under' is 2-11 in conference play and, crucially for tonight, 0-6 on the road.

Miami’s offense prefers to work inside. It has the 87th-highest point distribution inside the arc. Center Dewan Huell leads Miami with 12.3 points per game and ranks 235th in two-point shooting percentage. Virginia boasts two big men who can limit Huell. Isaiah Wilkins and Jack Salt rank in the top 200 in block percentage. They are very physical inside with their lower bodies, which helps them man up against the opponent without fouling. Virginia ranks 8th in opposing proportion of free-throw attempts per field goal attempts. Last year, Virginia limited Huell to one point in 11 minutes, but the Canes won 54-48 in overtime.

Overall, Miami ranks 11th in the ACC in block percentage allowed and is thus vulnerable to UVA’s interior defense. None of Miami’s major shot-takers are efficient behind the arc. Its four significant contributors shoot less than 36% from three. Its two most efficient three-point shooters went 2-for-8 from three in last year’s matchup. So it seems unlikely that Miami will be able to drain many of the contested threes that it will have to attempt.

Virginia’s offense operates at a grinding tempo. It ranks 351st in KenPom’s adjusted tempo. Its main objective is to prevent easy baskets from the other team. So it wants to be ball-secure and patient and wait for the best shot available. This year’s Virginia is a better 'under’ bet because it is more ball-secure and thus gives up fewer quick and easy baskets from the defense. UVA is the most ball-secure team in the ACC.

A major reason why its offensive rebounding percentage is so poor is because its players are too focused on getting back on defense. So Virginia’s offense suffers many one-and-done drives and will suffer these against Miami, which ranks second in defensive rebounding percentage. The Cavs will have trouble creating extra scoring opportunities against Miami’s ball-secure offense, which ranks 64th in turnover percentage allowed. Obviously, if history does repeat itself, bettors won’t have to worry at all about Virginia’s scoring. UVA's offense has scored 60 points or fewer in its past three games.

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