Tuesday, February 17, 2015

How Historic is UVA’s Defense?

The #2 Virginia men's basketball team's defense is ranked first in the country, allowing only 50.8 points per game, with #1 Kentucky at their heels at 51.8. But how historically low is that number?

Last year UVA led the nation in this category as well, but at 55.7 points per game. The year before the leader was Stephen F. Austin at 51.2. You have to go all the way back to 1992 to find a stingier defense, when Princeton held its opponents to a mere 48 points a game.  (That is roughly 325 teams in the country for 22 years, or over 7,100 total seasons before finding a better defense.) In 1992, UVA's coach Tony Bennett was playing in college. Here is the list of the leaders by year:

Tony Bennett fans should recognize a couple of those teams, including his 2009 Washington State team and his father Dick Bennett’s 2001 Wisconsin team.

How about just looking at Virginia’s history? How does this year’s Cavaliers squad compare to the 109 other seasons of UVA basketball history through 23 games? Bennett’s 2012 and 2013 teams were smothering defenses as well, but with a slightly higher average of 53 points per game. Earlier coaches Dave Leitao and Pete Gillen were not known for defense and their teams averaged 72 points a game. You would think the great Ralph Sampson would have contributed to historic defensive teams as well, but they allowed 62 points a game.  Even the ‘60s UVA teams allowed an average of 80 points a game. That is 60% more scoring allowed per game even without a shot clock or 3 point line. That could be why the program went 69-176 (.281) that decade. You have to go all the way back to the 1946 season to find a Virginia team giving up less than 50 points a game.

Check out the results from that year:

Talk about an easy schedule. UNC and Duke only once? VMI and W&L twice?

(Interestingly enough a lot of the opponents around that time were military schools due to WWII, so UVA would play against air bases and naval training centers.  I can only imagine what losing to “N.C. Pre-Flight School” and “Camp Lee” did to Virginia's RPI in 1943.)

The teams in the 1920s played games with scores only in the 20’s, so this year’s Virginia team is not going to break any all-time records, but they still have a chance to finish as the best Wahoo defense in almost 70 years.


  1. I don't know if it makes a difference, but the shot clock changed from 45 seconds to 35 seconds in the 1993 season, so that 92 Princeton team had 10 more seconds per possession to hold onto the ball, thus further limiting the amount of opportunities for opponents to score points.

  2. Basketball is a game with a very rich history. Analyzing the past games you can choose the most winning tactics.

  3. you know this tables can show the real situation of the modern basketball, thanks a lot!

  4. Looking at Virginia’s history and comparing to the 109 other seasons of UVA basketball history through 23 games, we can confidently say that the history changes!