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If You Don't Think Virginia Can Win A National Title Because It Lost To UMBC Last Year You're A Moron And Simpleton

Virginia Tech v Virginia

One of the takes I get all the time is that Virginia can’t win a national championship. People will point to the fact that their slow style is why they lost to UMBC and because of that it’s impossible for Virginia to win a national championship.

Don’t get me wrong here, we should always be making fun of Virginia for losing to a No. 16 seed. That should never stop. But, if you don’t think this Virginia team can win the national championship because of that you’re a moron.

First things first. Let’s address the slow tempo. Virginia is currently averaging offensive possessions of 20 seconds. Three of the last five national champions have ranked sub-200 in average possession length. One of those teams include 2016 Villanova who was 290th in tempo. It’s not the end of the world to play slow. Well, that’s only the fact when you can’t score.

This Virginia team is top-10 in offense this year. To be exact they are the 4th best offensive team in the country scoring 120 points per 100 possessions. It’s the best offensive team Virginia has had this year, with the team that lost in the Elite Eight the only other top-20 offense under Bennett.

Virginia is unbelievable at running off of off ball screens. That’s where a guy like Kihei Clark, the diminutive freshman who was supposed to go to UC Davis, has been so important. With him taking over as the lead ball handler it’s allowing both Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome run off of those screens. Guy is one of the best in the country at taking a screen, running a flare, if that’s not open there’s a down screen and a cross screen to get him open on the other side of the floor. Jerome and Guy are both shooting over 41% from three.

Then there’s De’Andre Hunter. The dirty secret last year was that losing Hunter cost Virginia what it wants to do. You can beat Virginia defensively by spreading them out and taking advantage of a mismatch at the four. Hunter takes that away. He’s exactly what you picture when you think of when you think of stretch four. He’s a 44% 3-point shooter. He can handle the ball. He’s an excellent defender. He’s also the best pro prospect that Bennett has had at Virginia. Sure, Brogdon was a NPOY and Anderson was a prospect, but no one has been close to Hunter, who is going to be a top-10 pick.

We know all about the Virginia defense. We know about their rotations. There’s no point in getting into that. Just know it’s unbelievable again. But, the other thing Virginia has this year is depth. The Braxton Key transfer has been big adding another guard. Then there’s been the development of Jay Huff. The 7’1″ sophomore is a stretch big who can be a complete mismatch and continue to give Virginia a different look. He’s also a pretty good rim protector so you don’t lose much by taking Salt out on the defensive side of the ball, at least in terms of rim protection.

I know people will say look at Bennett’s inability to get to the Final Four. I used to fall into that trap too. But, the fact is making a broad statement because of the NCAA Tournament just isn’t a good way to judge someone. No one is saying Kevin Ollie is a better coach than Bennett or Beilein because he has a title and they don’t. Bennett has had a bit of bad luck in the NCAA Tournament with Hunter injured last year and Justin Anderson injured back in 2015. Then there was the collapse against Syracuse in the Elite Eight.

So it’s time to to buy into this Virginia team if you haven’t yet. They are actually incredibly fun to watch since they can do what they want on the offensive side of the ball. They have NBA talent as Hunter and Jerome are both projected 1st round picks. With Duke losing Tre Jones you can make the legit case that Virginia is the best team in the country right now. Just don’t tell me they can’t win a title because they play slow or that they lost to UMBC.