A Philosophical Shift Drives UVa's Offense

Much of the ballyhooed press following Virginia's beatdown of Syracuse has focused on the Tony Bennett narrative: his demeanor, his relationship with Joe Harris, his success in places he shouldn't have success. So many writers focused on introducing Virginia and Tony Bennett to a national audience - who are these guys with their slow pace and their quirky 'puckline' defense? - that a key development in offensive philosophy was missed.

Against 'Cuse on Saturday, Virginia rebounded 41% of its own misses, a mark that would have made Virginia the 4th-best offensive rebounding team in the nation if replicated over the full season.

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As John Gasaway touched on briefly, a coach who's offensive rebounding philosophy was once described as "doesn't really dig them" (by John Gasaway) has been sending bigs to the glass with abandon. This marks a tremendous tautological shift as most Bennett teams sent all five players back on defense to prevent transition buckets. In fact, Virginia's OR% of 35% is 65th in the nation and the highest of any Tony Bennett-coached team. The second highest was 30% and that team was 168th in OR%, according to kenpom.com.

Part of the shift may be in response to the slower-paced ACC. In 2009, the year prior to Bennett's arrival, the ACC ranked second in tempo amongst all conferences. It was a fast-paced league, and sending some of your best defenders to the offensive glass risked layups on the other end. Teams in the ACC this year, however, are much much slower, making the ACC dead-last in tempo. Certainly, Virginia's plodding pace has added to that shift.

Bennett's been judicious about who he sends to the glass - he's allowed Mike Tobey to rank 18th in the nation in OReb% at 15% per game and Akil Mitchell's at 11% (233rd nationally). He also lets bench bigs Anthony Gill and Darion Atkins attack as well, but not anyone else. Everyone else has OReb% below 4%, which ranks them among the worst offensive rebounders in the ACC.

By switching his philosophy, Bennett has allowed his team to thrive offensively, posting its highest offensive efficiency of any Bennett-coached team. Virginia has crushed teams playing zone, in part due to its offensive rebounding prowess. Virginia's top 3 offensive performances of the season have been against zones.

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