Virginia, once again, makes Louisville look awful in victory against Cards: Takeaways
Tony Bennett is now 4-1 against Rick Pitino since Louisville joined the ACC
Rick Pitino is a Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer and one of the greatest college basketball coaches who has ever lived. But his teams sure do have a tough time with Tony Bennett's teams.
Wednesday night was a reminder of that.
Final: No. 12 Virginia 61, No. 6 Louisville 53.
So now Bennett's Cavaliers are 4-1 against Pitino's Cardinals since Louisville joined the ACC. And Louisville has averaged only 50.4 points in the five meetings.
Here are three takeaways from the ACC opener for both:
1. Virginia prevents everything Louisville does well
Louisville entered shooting only 33.5 percent from 3-point range and relying heavily on transition buckets and offensive stickbacks to score. Problem is, Virginia is a great defensive-rebounding team that's unbelievable at minimizing transition opportunities and forcing opponents to take contested 3-pointers. So perhaps folks should've seen this coming. The Cardinals shot only 14.3 percent from beyond the arc against Virginia and grabbed only eight of their own missed shots, of which there were 25. Simply put, almost nothing went well.
2. The Cavaliers are going to be fine without Austin Nichols
Nichols transferred to Virginia from Memphis, sat out last season and was expected to be the Cavaliers' leading scorer this season. In fact, he is still technically the Cavaliers' leading scorer this season because the 6-foot-9 forward scored 11 points in the one game he played before Bennett dismissed him from the team, and because no Virginia player is averaging more than that. In other words, Virginia lost its most naturally gifted player in November. And yet everything that was on the table then remains on the table now. That's a credit to Bennett and the culture he's created. He's a truly excellent coach who would win consistently anywhere -- proof being how he won 69 games in three years at Washington State.
3. The top of the ACC is going to be like this
Louisville looked bad. But that says more about Virginia than it says about anything. And, remember, these are the same Cardinals who beat Kentucky just last week. And Duke and North Carolina are also in this league. And check this out: According to KenPom right now, the nation's top three teams are Virginia, Duke and North Carolina. And Louisville ranks eighth. So the top of the ACC is going to be nuts.
A future national champion could finish first or fourth in the ACC.
That's the truth.
Bottom line, don't expect any team to run away with this conference or finish with fewer than four league losses. It's going to be crazy competitive at the top from now through March. May the best team win. And good luck trying to properly identify which team that actually is. You can guess. But you don't know. Nobody knows.
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