KULP: Virginia is for snoozers

Geoff Burke—Reuters
Virginia Cavaliers head coach Tony Bennett talks to his team in a huddle against the Pittsburgh Panthers in the first half at John Paul Jones Arena. The Cavaliers won 67-42.

As the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament gets underway, there is one thing on which Hokies and Hurricanes and Heels (like me) can all agree: The University of Virginia men’s basketball team is virtually unwatchable and must be stopped.If you’re unfamiliar with Virginia’s team and its style of play, here’s a little exercise:Close your eyes and picture everything you love about the game of basketball. Now, picture the opposite. That’s UVa men’s basketball.Basketball is a battle of wills. The team that can dictate the pace and style of the game usually wins. The problem is that the pace and style that Virginia aspires to is slow and boring.Virginia’s modus operandi is clear: play tight defense and take your sweet time on offense. The numbers bear this out. Headed into the ACC tournament, Virginia, a team that has spent the entire season in the top 25 rankings, is tied for 308th in the nation in scoring with just 66.6 points per game. On the other end of the floor the Caviliers rank No. 1, allowing just under 55 points per game.Scores in the 60s would have seemed low in the 1950s, before the slam dunk, three pointer, and shot clock. It’s more like something from the movie Hoosiers than the 21st century. Put simply, Virginia is taking college basketball back decades and making the rest of us suffer along.As an ardent UNC fan, maybe (just maybe) I’m a little biased. Like Roy Williams, I like my basketball to be played as fast as possible, but still in control. When the pace is fast and the scoring is frequent, the game flows in an almost magical way.When Carolina played at Virginia on Feb. 27, it was widely hailed as one of the worst basketball games in the history of ACC basketball. Virginia won that game 53-43, and they did so by playing the game exactly the way they wanted to: slowly.While I’ve never actually been to a game in Charlottesville’s John Paul Jones arena, I can only imagine what the experience must be like. Virginia fans appear to be typical college basketball fans, so I genuinely feel sorry for them. They cheer every basket, boo every adverse call, and proclaim their supremacy with the ubiquitous raised index finger every time a TV camera turns in their direction. But all this excitement belies what is actually happening on the court.The typical Virginia offensive possession goes something like this:The point guard slowly mopes his way down the floor, barely making it over mid-court in the allotted 10 seconds. While most teams pride themselves in good ball-movement, the Caviliers seem content to just pass the thing around to kill a little time. When the 30-second shot clock finally ticks its way down to 0:10, the Virginia offense kicks is into full gear with a few more passes and a sleepy little jump shot or layup. Their play is crisp and well-executed, but not especially entertaining. (Side note: I can’t imagine what the jumbotron hype-videos look like in JPG Arena, but I’m pretty sure they use Air Supply as a soundtrack.)This isn’t to say that Virginia is a bad team. Their success under Tony Bennett is hard to dispute. Since taking the job at UVa in 2009, he’s amassed a 186—81 record, made a few deep NCAA tournament runs, and given perennial powers like Duke and North Carolina fits.And I don’t want to knock their players. They seem like smart, talented kids who (unfortunately) buy into Tony Bennett’s yawn-inducing system. Plus, they don’t make a habit of tripping their opponents, which is commendable in today’s ACC.If you love the sport of basketball as much as I do, I want you all to join me in wishing the University of Virginia men’s basketball team the worst of luck this post-season.A win for Virginia is a loss for the game of basketball.Steve Kulp is a graphic designer and brand strategist in Carrboro.