The No. 3 Virginia Cavaliers (21-6, 10-5) had a chance to knock on the door of a third straight ACC championship on Monday night. Instead, a 64-61 loss to the No. 12 Miami Hurricanes dropped the Cavaliers into fourth place of the conference, and two games back in the loss column of North Carolina.
After the loss, the Cavaliers were knocked off the top line of the NCAA Tournament projections, according to Jerry Palm of CBS Sports. They were replaced by the Oklahoma Sooners as the fourth No. 1 seed.
In the past two years, the Cavaliers lost a total of four conference games, so suffering their fifth loss this season has to be a setback for a team with NCAA Final Four aspirations. More importantly, there is a troubling occurrence in all of Virginia’s losses. They’ve failed to score more than 68 points in every defeat. On the season, the Cavaliers are (8-6) in games where they haven’t reached 70 points. Their largest defeat was by seven points to the Florida State Seminoles.
Still, there are deeper issues at hand. Over the last three years, the Cavaliers have lost 17 games. Their 72 points during a three point loss to Green Bay in 2014-15 season was the only time Virginia surpassed the 70-point mark. In the last two years, the Cavaliers earned a No. 1 seed, and a No. 2 seed from the NCAA Tournament selection committee. Both times, they lost to Michigan State, while never reaching the 60-point mark. A 61-59 loss in the Sweet 16 was followed up by a 60-54 defeat in last year’s round of 32.
Nobody is doubting the Cavaliers’ defensive ability, but it hasn’t translated to success in March Madness. As of now, Virginia is third in the country in scoring defense. Currently, they hold opponents to 59.7 points per game. They also hold opponents to 41.8 percent from the field.
Meanwhile, Virginia shoots over 49 percent from the field, and they connect on 40 percent of their 3-point attempts this season. Yet, it seems like their offensive output wanes during critical moments. For example, out of the 15 teams in the ACC, the Cavaliers are 14th in scoring offense. They are too talented to only score 66 points per game in league play. However, their style of play allows lesser teams to hang in the game. It’s also facilitated one of the best runs in program history. Somehow, the Cavaliers have to find a balance in the one and done world of the NCAA Tournament.
With three games remaining in the conference season, the Cavaliers have home dates with North Carolina, and Louisville. They also have a road game at Clemson. They’ll need to win all three games to have a chance at a regular season crown. If that happens, maybe the Cavaliers will earn the No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday.