​​If You Like Painful Basketball And Dickhead Fans, Root For Virginia

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Look, I'm not going to complain about Virginia's style of play here. You don't need to read the umpteenth article telling you that there's not much joy to be found in watching their version of rockball which involves, on offense, walking the ball up the court, wheeling man after man around the perimeter off of screen after screen, which, hopefully before 35 seconds have passed, will have confused or annoyed an opponent enough to free up one of UVa's creatively-challenged players for an easy layup; and which on defense consists of packing the paint, running at and flailing their hands at the perimeter players until, after about 30 seconds have passed, the opponent is confused or annoyed enough to throw up a contested jumper. Sure, it's boring, but it's fine. What isn't fine is the typical UVa fan, and anything that brings those people happiness should be avoided on general principle.

But first, since everyone else is going to be complaining about it, you should know something about how Virginia actually plays. They are the dreaded "grind it out" team for which the cliche is unfortunately applicable to both sides of the ball, though defense is what this team is built on. They run what is called the "pack line defense." The philosophy is basically to stuff four guys in and around the paint, and have the guy guarding the ballhandler do his best impression of that over-invested pick-up ball defender you see every week at the local YMCA, pressuring the opponent's dribble from the moment they cross half-court. When that defender's man passes the ball, he will slink back deeper into the paint gang and another player will run at the new ball handler.


The point is to coax opponents into driving into the open space in the midrange area, where they will then get swarmed by a sea of limbs before reaching the lane. If that player doesn't take the contested two, he will kick it out to the perimeter, at which point a Cavalier from the paint mob will fly out towards them to harass any potential open shooter. It's basically predicated on the idea that college basketball players aren't very good, and can only consistently make wide-open threes or easy layups. By not allowing space in the lane, they don't give up layups. By darting out at perimeter players, they don't give up open threes. In this system, the individual defenders don't matter so much beyond their wingspans and lung capacities; they are, to an extent, interchangeable pawns on coach Tony Bennett's chessboard.

Here's that defense at work in against Rutgers in November, a game in which the Cavaliers allowed just 26 points:

Teams only average 50.8 points per game against them, which is the best in the nation, and also gives them the country's best adjusted defensive efficiency rating by KenPom.com's measure.


The rub here is that in the same game they held Rutgers to 26, they only scored 45 points of their own. For as ugly as they make other offenses look, their own offense is only marginally prettier. UVa outscores opponents by about 15 points on average, which is fantastic, but that still only adds up to the 225th-ranked total of 65.3 points per game.

Offensively, Virginia is everything people complain about when they argue that the college shot clock should be shortened. Where in the NBA you only see teams run a couple actions to get someone open before they realize they have to hurry up and shoot, UVa looks like they're running about eight different plays every time they have the ball. And of course, the first five actions usually don't lead to anything good, so they keep setting off-ball screen after back-pick after post set-up until one man has given their defender the slip and can take a high-percentage shot. There's a reason KenPom has their offense ranked as the nation's 25th-most efficient.

Here's what this looks like—and remember, this is a highlight video showing the possessions that worked well:

Malcolm Brogdon is their leading scorer, averaging a whopping 13.7 points a game. Their best offensive weapon is Justin Anderson, but he's been out most of the year with a broken pinky and more recently an appendectomy. He's played sparingly in the last couple games, and as the team's only player who can create a decent shot on his own, they'll need him back to do anything significant in the tournament.


The Cavaliers have come to grips with the mediocrity of college basketball by running a defense designed to take away the two things most teams are good at, and have accepted their own mediocrity by working really, really hard to get one of their mediocre guys a shot they can hit with some regularity. It's pragmatic, exhausting, and largely uninteresting. If you have a problem with it, take it up with the rule-makers.

While entertainment is a fine reason to root for Virginia to flame out, that's not why we're here. We're here because the students of UVa are snobby, entitled brats who will use their team's success and style of play to gorge their already over-inflated egos.


If you've ever flipped through one of those magazine college rankings, you know that Virginia ranks up there pretty high. If you haven't, just wait; they'll tell you all about it. It took until about my second day rooming with a UVa alum to start hearing about how amazing she was for having spent four years in Charlottesville. It was by hanging out with her and some of her friends that I realized just why people hated East Coast kids from Michigan, UNC, Penn State, and the other so-called "public ivies" who think that by dint of sitting next to a few actually smart kids in American Lit 304 that it somehow rubbed off and they should all be regarded as geniuses.

What I found was that Wahoos were a particular breed of arrogant asshole. They share the sense that they are smarter than they really are, smarter than you, and lack any humility or charm that might temper their bragging into merely self-confidence. For every story you have, they have a similar one that paints them in a slightly better light. For every classic of world literature you have read, they'll enlighten you on four more lesser-known but far more engrossing and artistically meritorious works that you've just got to read to have a true understanding of the subject.


This isn't unique to UVa. But because of where their school is located, they have an even greater sense of exceptionalism. In their minds, they are of the South, but not of the South, if you know what I mean. They aren't Andrew Jackson Southerners; they are the sons and daughters of Thomas Jefferson. They wouldn't be caught dead uttering any of that old racism, but do enjoy showing up to parties in their finest antebellum clothing while sipping an even finer mint julep, happy to look down on other unsophisticated collegians with their beer and poorly mixed cocktails.

When you give a student like this a basketball team heavy on strategy and coaching and "intelligence," of course you're going to find them squatting over it and prying open their anuses to intake as much of that aura up their own assholes as they possibly can. Compact, stout defense and movement-dominated offense are perfectly OK things to appreciate, I guess. But for these people, the way this basketball team plays shows the particular genius of their university. To them, that their student-athletes are the ones pulling such a heady style of play somehow reflects back on their own intellectual prowess. "If you don't appreciate how Mike Tobey really put his shoulder into that second screen," you might almost overhear if your ears can pick up the dickhead frequency, "then damn it, you just don't get basketball. Isolation plays are fine, but the collective of underathletic, overintelligent teammates using their minds to overcome their opponent is truly a thing to delight in."


Everyone knows this kind of person, and this kind of person sucks. Now imagine the complex on that person after they didn't get into Duke. Fuck 'em all, I say.