ACC in the NCAAs: Scouting Virginia vs. FloridaPosted by KCarpenter on March 16th, 2012
This is a tough draw for Virginia. Florida is a very good team for a #7 seed, and that more than offsets the advantage Virginia could have theoretically gained as an unusually good #10 seed. In this match-up the NCAA did something that fans of contrasting styles love: pitting an elite offensive team against an elite defensive team. By Ken Pomeroy’s offensive efficiency rankings, Florida has the second best offense in the country after Missouri while Virginia has the 104th. On defense, Virginia ranks 5th in efficiency while Florida ranks 121st. Virginia’s star is an elite post player in Mike Scott, while Florida relies on it’s triumvirate of guards (Bradley Beal, Kenny Bonyton, and Erving Walker) to rain down threes from the perimeter. Polar opposites of each other in terms of focus, both teams share an affinity for slow pace and play their starters heavy minutes. So what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Well, in this case, the news doesn’t look particularly good for Virginia.
Of all the teams in the country, few match the statistical profile of Virginia as well as Florida’s SEC brother, Alabama. Like Virginia, Alabama is a defensive-minded team that struggles to score efficiently with a post-centered attack. The Gators played Alabama twice this year, once in the regular season and once in the conference tournament and walked away with the victory both times. It’s tempting to attribute these victories, like many of Florida’s victories, to hot three-point shooting, but the Crimson Tide actually did a pretty good job against the Gators, holding them to only 28.6% and 33.3% from behind the arc. Yet Florida won, by making enough threes, getting enough offensive rebounds, and forcing enough turnovers to get the win. Does the same fate await Virginia?
It’s possible, but these two games against Alabama also offer some potential tactics that the Cavaliers could leverage to get the upset. Florida uses a three big rotation that, while talented, is prone to foul trouble. In both games against Alabama, the Gators’ best rebounder, Patric Young, fouled out of the game. Eric Murphy and Cody Larson, the other two big men, each got to four fouls in one of these games. Scott has a talent for drawing fouls, averaging 5.6 fouls drawn per 40 minutes. In this match-up Virginia can find an edge. If the Cavaliers pound the ball down low, letting Scott go to work, there is a good chance that he will earn chances to score efficiently from the free throw line as well as ensnaring the Florida front court in foul trouble. If Virginia’s back court can lock down the perimeter as well as they have all season, and get a nominal amount of efficient offense from non-Scott sources, the Cavaliers have a real shot at winning this.
It’s only a shot, however. Of all the ACC teams in the tournament, I feel like Virginia has the most challenging and initial match-up. To win this game, the Cavaliers needs for several things to go right and even then the win is probably a tall order. The loss of Malcolm Brogdon to a broken foot and the suspension of Assane Sene, as well as the pair of December transfers have cost Virginia a lot of depth. Still, the players who are left are talented and fearless; they’ve been in tough games and they’ve won tough games. If Scott can draw enough fouls and Virginia’s guards can force enough clanks from the perimeter, the Cavaliers could really surprise some folks.