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Low Scoring And Lethal

Tony Bennett’s defense gets the most attention, but his offense is pretty impressive too, once you get used to it.

Duke and the University of Virginia
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - FEBRUARY 19: Virginia Cavaliers guard Kihei Clark (0) is defended heavily under the basket by Duke Blue Devils center Mark Williams (15) during the 1st half in a game between Duke and the University of Virginia in mens basketball at the John Paul Jones Arena on February 19, 2022 in Charlottesville, VA .
Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Under Tony Bennett Virginia apparently regards offensive production as an adjunct, or perhaps a byproduct, of good team discipline and determined defense. To argue that the contemporary Cavaliers focus on scoring is a bit of a reach.

But it’s not just Bennett. There must be some suppressive substance in the Charlottesville ecosystem. UVa’s tendency toward weak offensive production long predates Bennett’s arrival. The Cavs have not had a 20-point scorer in 24 seasons, since Norman Nolan in 1998, Jeff Jones’s last year as head coach. That’s four coaches ago.

Only two of Bennett’s players averaged at least 18.0 point, none since Malcolm Brogdon in 2016. Brogdon was the ’16 ACC player of the year. Remarkably the guard is the only UVa player to earn POY honors since Ralph Sampson in 1983, a span of 40 years.

Brogdon is among three Cavaliers ever voted POY, along with Barry Parkhill (1972) and Ralph Sampson (1981, 1982, 1983).

In 13 seasons under Bennett, a shooting guard in the NBA, only five of his players ranked among the conference’s top 10 in per-game average. Last season East Carolina refugee Jayden Gardner, one of two Jaydens in the Cav squad, was UVa’s best, ranking 12th in the league.

As for the team, its highest ACC rank in scoring came in 2019, when its 71.4-point average was eighth-best in a 15-member league.

Cavs led the ACC in scoring only four times, most recently Jeff Lamp in 1979 (22.9) and most impressively Buzzy Wilkinson in 1954 and 1955 (30.1 and 32.1 points, respectively.) Parkhill also led in scoring at 21.6 in 1972.

No ACC player has averaged as many as 30.1 points since Wake big man Len Chappell in 1962, the school’s sole Final Four season. NC State’s David Thompson, the ACC’s greatest player ever, chipped in 29.9 per game in 1975.

At the other end of the spectrum, some of the best players in the ACC’s 69 seasons paced the league in scoring with fewer than 20 points per game, including 29 players of the year (42 percent). The last three POYs failed to reach the 20-point mark: Duke’s Tre Jones (16.2 in 2020), Tech’s Wright (17.4 in ’21) and Wake’s Williams (18.5).

Prior to Williams, the Deacs hadn’t had a player of the year since Josh Howard in 2003, another under-20 scorer (19.5).

Danny Ferry and Len Bias, two of the forgotten greats ever to play in the league, each twice earned POY recognition in the 1980s, once each while averaging about 19 points.

Virginia And Its Scoring Leaders Under Tony Bennett (Team Won NCAA Title in 2019)
Year ACC Leader, Top 25 Avg. ACC Rank Team Pt. Avg. Team Point Rank, ACC
2022 Jayden Gardner 15.34 12 62.4 14
2021 Sam Hauser 16.00 7 68.2 11
2020 Mamadi Diakite 13.73 13 (t) 57.0 15
2019 Kyle Guy 15.4 12 71.4 8
2018 Kyle Guy 14.1 19 67.1 12
2017 None 12.7 N/A* 66.1 15
2016 Malcolm Brogdon 18.2 4 71.0 12
2015 Malcolm Brogdon 14.0 14 65.4 12
2014 Malcolm Brogdon 12.7 22 66.2 12 (of 15)
2013 Joe Harris 16.3 4 64.2 11 (of 12)
2012 Mike Scott 18.0 2 62.5 10
2011 Mustapha Farrakhan 13.5 13 61.9 12
2010 Sylven Landesberg 17.3 6 65.5 12
* London Perrantes averaged 12.7 points in 2017, not enough to crack the ACC's top 25 scorers.