1. As noted yesterday, Virginia clearly has issues on offense. But Tony Bennett’s team has not disappointed on the other end of the court. Entering yesterday’s game with Drexel (in the loser’s bracket of the Paradise Jam) the Hoos were allowing just 0.76 points per possession. Against the Dragons (hitting 18% from 3-point land) they turned it up a notch and completely shut them down, allowing just 35 points in a 54 possession game (0.65 points per possession). Tempo was one thing – it matches the 2nd lowest in Bennett’s three year tenure at Virginia – but the defense was another. Drexel made four field goals in the first half (and 14 for the game), and for the day shot 33% on 2s, 14.3% on 3s, and turned the ball over on 24.1% of their possessions. If UVA gets their offense turned around they’ll be a dangerous team.
2. Another team with a great defense that likes to grind the pace is Wisconsin. Bo Ryan and Tony Bennett have a lot in common, but yesterday Ryan 1-upped the young UVA coach. Against Wofford the Badgers allowed only 33 points in a 55 possession game (0.60 points per possession). The most Wisconsin has allowed this season is 0.69 per possession, and they’re at a ridiculous 0.61 for the season. The difference between Virginia and Wisconsin is that the latter also possesses an elite offense. While the Cavaliers are averaging an unimpressive 1.02 points per possession, the Badgers are averaging 1.29. Of course Wisconsin hasn’t played anyone of note. They’ll get a couple more cupcakes before facing North Carolina and Marquette in back-to-back games.
3. I’ve heard a couple of announcers declare Cincinnati as a sleeper pick to win the Big East, and I’m guessing that they haven’t seen them play. Considering the steady improvement at Cincinnati under head coach Mick Cronin, and the return of Yancy Gates and the starting back court it’s easy to see why this team should carry the burden of high expectations. But on the court, something hasn’t been right. In their first two games against bad teams the Bearcats barely mustered a point per possession on offense (1.01), and then yesterday Presbyterian came to town, slowed the game down, and walked out with a victory. One of Cincinnati’s strengths last year was taking care of the ball (55th nationally), but now they’re turning it over on 23.5% of their trips (225th).
4. Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham dropped 35 on Hofstra on Wednesday, but that was Hofstra, right? Yesterday OSU got a bit stiffer competition in Texas (on a neutral court) and the Beavers won in overtime. Jared Cunningham? Texas held him to 37, and 20 of those came from the line (where he’s scored 44% of his points for the season).
5. Not everyone in the Pac-12 fared as well as Oregon State. USC – which had began the season with an easy win, and then lost in double-overtime to Nebraska and in the final two seconds against San Diego State – looked to get their season back on track against Cal Poly. Cal Poly had lost 9 in a row to Pac-12 schools, and trailed USC by as many as 8 in the 2nd half. But USC shot their way out of an ugly game. They shot 35.5% from 2, 14.3% from 3, and 57.9% from the line, and ended up losing 42-36. It was the fewest points scored by the Trojans since 1967.