To beat UVA and their trademark defense, a team has to do a few things.
First, the opponent must hit three pointers consistently. They must also have guards who attack the paint with poise, and wings who directly challenge Virginia's bigs.
The Virginia Tech men's basketball team did none of those things in a 71-48 self-destruction in Charlottesville.
The Hokies struggled in every aspect. They couldn't hit shots (5-17 in the first half), they turned the ball over recklessly (14 total), and also failed to create any resistance on the other end. For a group who couldn't possibly seem to play as poorly as they did against North Carolina last week, they out did themselves.
"The thing that hurt us most was our turnover rate was way too high, in as slow a game as that was," said head coach Buzz Williams. "22 percent of the time we gave the ball to them without a shot, and that's mathematically incredibly hard to overcome."
Outside of one brief glimmer of hope in the second half, when swingman Ahmed Hill had a chance to cut the Wahoo lead to 10, the mistakes and missed shots suffocated the Hokies. Their flubs piled up, as they watched UVA methodically pull away. As far as blowouts go, it was especially excruciating to watch.
"They're not going to change," Williams said of the Hoos' style. "They're the second slowest team in the country relative to pace of play. That's how they play, you can shoot it as fast as you want, and the cumulative part of the game they're going to win time of possession no matter what."
Seth Allen led the way with 14 points on an inefficient 5-14 from the floor. Zach LeDay had 12, and no one else finished with more than five.
Now this all fails to acknowledge the Cavaliers' ability as a group. They're the ninth ranked team in the country, and came within a shot of taking down number one Villanova. Tech's rivals are in the midst of another great year, and are one of the best the Hokies will play, but it doesn't numb the agony of the loss.
Buzz's bunch drops to 16-6, and now have a week off until they travel to Miami. Seven days is a ton of time relative to the ACC schedule, and is necessary to sure up an ailing defense. And after their matchup against the surging Hurricanes?
Tech plays UVA again. In Blacksburg.
And just in case anyone forgot (though you probably didn't), the Hokies won in Cassell last time.
A Few Quick Thoughts
Yes, Frank Beamer was on the bench. Why? No one really knows. Buzz gave a very nondescript answer about him knowing the players, but it didn't really mean much.
Moral of the story: Buzz is a weird guy who sometimes does weird things. And that's okay, even in a blowout.
The defense has been poor, especially over the last four games. But the problem is there aren't a ton of avenues for Buzz to fix it. Playing Justin Robinson and Allen at the same time means one of the two will be matched up against a larger guard, and either Chris Clarke or Ahmed Hill would have to handle a forward. In theory, a zone mitigates some of those concerns.
But would a switch to man help the Hokies' dreadful rebounding? Maybe. UVA had 11 offensive rebounds, including three in a raucous (and demoralizing) opening few minutes. But a change could also lead to foul trouble, easy baskets inside, and other woes protected the rim.
It was troubling to watch how much trouble the Hoos gave Clarke all night. They wanted to limit transition baskets, the sophomore's lifeblood, but he found early success driving right to the basket in half court sets. But other than a pair of quick trips to the line in the first half, the Hokies needed a search party to find him.
Clarke ended 1-4 from the field (0-2 from three) with five points. Less than ideal from one of the team's best offensive weapons.
On a slightly positive note: watching Bennett's Cavaliers is a great reminder about how a coach can turn around the destiny of a program. He took over a squad whose last coach (Dave Leitao) burned out any support left for UVA hoops, ran the team into the ground, and laughed as he peeled away from the ashes.
Buzz took over from James Johnson, a coach who was worse than Seth Greenberg. In case you forgot, Greenberg was the guy who burned out any support left for Tech hoops, pushed many of his players away, and laughed as he peeled away from the ashes.
While Buzz took over a worse situation, he still had to deal with many of the same issues as his counterpart in Charlottesville. Public perception was borderline laughable, and the culture was listless at best.
Both Bennett and Williams came in as complete outsiders, and instituted their own styles. Virginia made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in Bennett's third season, after he retooled the roster with players of his choosing. Barring something catastrophic (which isn't out of the question), it's promising that the Hokies may also go dancing in year three of the Buzz era.
But since we're on the subject, there's no guarantee that Tech makes the tournament. Yes, they play in the best conference in the country, but look at the resume.
Their one good win is against a shaky Duke team who can't seem to put anyone away. And the schedule, while manageable, offers plenty of pitfalls (pun not intended, but their game at Pittsburgh is one to circle).
I won't tell anyone to predict more March heartbreak, but it's less of a sure thing than many anticipate.