We all know how weird things have been in the ACC this year. We have seen just about every team in the conference lose to a team they have no business losing to over the course of the season. Whether it be Miami losing to Florida Gulf Coast or Florida State losing to Mercer or Boston College losing to Bryant, this has shaped up what has been one of the most bizarre seasons in ACC history.
And I've left out one school that probably has had the most roller coaster season for any fan base of the conference: Virginia. The Cavaliers have a good 18-6, but are on the NCAA Tournament bubble because of their six losses. While they are by a combined 36 points, it's the quality of the losses. They are 0-3 against the CAA, and the other three losses are to teams that currently sit eighth, ninth, and tenth in the ACC standings. That's certainly not a quality NCAA Tournament resume. The biggest win is beating Wisconsin on the road, and while they win didn't look so great at the time, it has gotten a lot more important as the season has gone on.
What has made this season more interesting for Virginia fans is the offense during their current three game winning streak. The Cavaliers, who usually average 64 points per game, are averaging 77 points per game, which is tied for 35th most in the nation. Over the last three games, the Cavs are scoring more points than the team that has the highest points per game average, which is Indiana.
We also know Virginia as a very slow tempo team. Over the last three games, Virginia is averaging 64.3 possessions per game, which is only two possessions more than their average. But over this winning streak, Virginia has had more possessions per game than these vaunted programs: Kansas State, San Diego State, Creighton, Syracuse, Michigan State, Minnesota, Cincinnati, and Kentucky. Yes, that Kentucky. I couldn't believe it either when I saw it, but it's true. But what it does show is that games are slowing down a lot recently.
What has brought on this sudden high scoring pace for Virginia? There are several reasons. For one, offensive efficiency is a big factor. During this streak, the Cavs are averaging 1.197 points per possession, which is seventh best in the nation over this streak. Field goal offense and defense are big factors as well. The Cavs have shot 51.3% over the last three games, while allowing teams to shoot 40.1% over the last three games. You can also look at three point shooting as a huge factor as well. The Cavs have shot 48.3% from three, while allowing the three opponents to shoot just 23.7%.
Which player has benefited most from Virginia's scoring tear? Joe Harris has wedged himself in to first team All-ACC consideration because of this three game stretch. Harris is averaging 23 points per game, including a career high 26 in the last game against Virginia Tech. Harris is shooting 70% from the field, and an absurd 66.6% from three. Harris is also shooting 89% from the free throw line during this stretch. Counting free throws, Harris has made about 78% of his shots during this three game run. This run has jumped his scoring average to 16.3 points per game, which is fourth in the conference, which considering he averages 11 shots per game, is downright impressive.
The chances of Virginia continuing this scoring run are not very high, but what it does show is that a team doesn't necessarily have to have a fast paced offense to be a high scoring team. The key is being efficient on offense, which Virginia has been over this three game stretch. This stretch has helped Virginia towards the top of the ACC, and in the long run, more money in Tony Bennett's pocket, hopefully at Virginia.