ESPN, the ACC, and the Big Ten conspired to slap UVA in the face with a trip to the most poisonous atmosphere in hoops (although, since my contention is that that decision was made right about the time Maryland announced their departure, they probably did so before UVA was a conference champ) and the Hoos responded like you want a top-ten team to do. In a game that wasn't as close as the double-digit margin of victory indicated, the Hoos kept their composure perfectly and walked out of the Terrible Customer Service Center with a very big win.
"Composure" truly is the word of the day. It's a testament either to Justin Anderson's class or good sense that he doesn't stare down the Maryland student section (which is known for never cheering for football or basketball players who decommit from elsewhere in favor of Maryland, because that sort of thing is uncouth) and crotch-grab every time he scores. It's a testament to Tony Bennett's Zen-like calmness that he didn't pile up eight technicals after watching the Big Ten refs compete to see who could call the ticky-tackest foul. And it's a testament to Tony's style and the whole team's buy-in that the game might as well have been played in a church for all the team seemed to outwardly care about the environment.
I am, by the way, not interested in hearing about Dez Wells or Evan Smotrycz, the Terps' walking wounded who missed the game. Neither is at all indispensible on the defensive end - particularly Smotrycz - and UVA turned in their second-best offensive performance of the season, after only the Tennessee State game. The Hoos dominated the interior scoring game; in fact, other than Devon Hall and Isaiah Wilkins, who took a shot each and missed it (as well as those who never attempted one) every single UVA player shot .500 or better from two.
There's every reason to believe this team will go places. (Not that there wasn't before, but it's still nice to have confirmation.) While I don't really believe in the "defense travels" meme, there's still likely to be something to the idea that good defensive teams are also good at consistency - or maybe more specifically, Tony Bennett's team are really good at consistency, because it's a necessary condition of being this damn good at a defensive system. The ACC is shaping up to have three main contenders. Being one of them right now is all you can ask for.
-- A butterfly flaps its wings in New York and in College Park, a foul is called. Possibly the best coaching job of the night was Tony Bennett orchestrating the rotation so that nobody fouled out - even while missing Darion Atkins most of the game and Justin Anderson for a big chunk of it.
-- Not only did Justin Anderson not travel after that rebound (he did in fact dribble a couple times), he was fouled on the play. The refs just decided that one time to let Jake Layman go over the back without a whistle. This by the way was after Layman managed to make it from the top of the key to the low block without a single dribble, this in the first half.
-- Which is a better conference - one with three probably-elite teams at the top, an assortment of good to very good ones, and a horrible bottom half? Or one with one possibly-elite team and a whole huge pack of very good ones? The results say the latter, I guess - but the way things tend to be defined in the end, which all comes down to tournament performance, the ACC is likely to nose out the Big Ten. It's worth noting that the B1G has six ranked teams and all but one lost in the Challenge.
-- This is fun:
Running offense against Kentucky or Louisville is like driving through a tornado — it’s complete chaos, things are flying at you from all angles, and you’re probably crapping your pants as it’s happening. But if you keep your cool and get a little lucky, you can survive. Meanwhile, running offense against Virginia is like driving into a brick wall — you can stay where you are and be perfectly safe, but there’s only one way to get where you want, and that wall isn’t going anywhere.And the whole rest of it also happens to be exactly the kind of positive press that attracts attention of the best kind.
-- Don't forget that there's soccer this weekend. The kind of football UVA is good at. The women are on ESPNU, Friday at 5, and the men on Saturday at 1, on the Georgetown free video site.