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Yes, Virginia, There Is A Struggle Clause

Getting to the top is one thing. Staying there is quite another.

Pittsburgh v Virginia
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - DECEMBER 03: Head coach Tony Bennett of the Virginia Cavaliers during a game against the Pittsburgh Panthers at John Paul Jones Arena on December 3, 2021 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

These is not the most propitious season for Tony Bennett’s grinding juggernaut at Virginia.

While the Cavaliers lead the ACC leaders in scoring defense, as they have every year since 2012, Bennett’s third season at Charlottesville ( ), they are far less proficient in other statistical categories.

In fact, they lack the majority of last year’s starters and it shows.

Virginia ranks in the bottom half of the league in areas as disparate as scoring margin, field goal percentage, 3-point field goal percentage, 3-point field goal percentage defense, offensive and defensive rebounding, and 3-pointers made per game.

After setting a new league record in 2021 with .816 free throw acuity, this year the Cavs are 9th in the ACC with .708 accuracy at the line through the end of the 2021 calendar year.

They were shocked at home by Navy to open this season and dropped three of five entering the Christmas break. They finished that stretch of games with a 67-50 loss at home to Clemson, their first defeat against the Tigers in a dozen matchups.

At one point in the second half against the tough Tigers UVa went 11 minutes without a basket. Virginia, known for playing under control at all times, had twice as many turnovers as Clemson (14-7), fueling fast break opportunities for the visitors.

Among the Cavaliers only Jayden Gardner, a 6-6 transfer from East Carolina, ranks in the top 20 in ACC scoring. The senior from the town of Wake Forest was a first team All-AAC selection in 2021. Now he’s third in the ACC in official field goal accuracy, fourth in the league in rebounding, and easily UVa’s best foul shooter.

Meanwhile Virginia at 7-5 already has lost more times than in two of the last four seasons in their entirety. With at least 19 games left (pending COVID disruption), Bennett’s bunch is in position to endure more defeats than at any time since at least 2017, when they suffered their sole drop below second in the ACC in a nine-year span.

Virginia Records Under Tony Bennett
(Through Games of Dec. 22, 2021)
Year Record Record Finish
2022 7-5 0-1 NA
2021 18-7 13-4 1
2020 24-7 15-5 tie-2
2019 35-3 16-2 tie-1
2018 31-3 17-1 1
2017 23-11 11-7 tie-5
2016 29-8 13-5 tie-2
2015 30-4 16-2 1
2014 30-7 16-2 1
2013 23-12 11-7 4
2012 22-10 9-7 tie-4
2011 16-15 7-9 tie-7
2010 15-16 5-11 tie-9