What is wrong with Virginia?
The question is being asked around the Atlantic Coast Conference and the nation following the Cavaliers' 62-61 loss to Georgia Tech Saturday. UVA now has dropped four of five games; has seen its record drop to 17-7; prbably will drop out of the national rankings for the first time this season and likely will have to win the ACC tournament to get into the NCAA tournament.
All this from a team that was supposed to be peaking now as 7-foot-4 freshman Ralph Sampson became adjusted to college basketball.
Sampson has played well lately. But Virginia has shown weaknesses in other areas. First, the Cavaliers clearly are too slow to pressure anyone defensively. Georgia Tech, which could be nicknamed the Lead Feet, has just eight turnovers Saturday.
"Jeff Jones and I aren't exactly the quickest guards in the world," Jeff Lamp said recently in a major understatement. In fact, with Jones hobbled by knee cartilage damage that probably will require offseason surgery, the Cavs have a very slow guard line.
The pace is no faster at forward with Lee Raker, Mike Owens and Garland Jefferson. Only Sampson plays quick at his position.
That is one problem. Another is the all-round play of Raker, Owens and Jefferson.
Raker has not been the same player since hurting a shoulder in December against Old Dominion. He has not been aggressive inside (two rebounds Saturday) and his shooting has been spotty. Owens and Jefferson always have been streaky players and neither contributed four points Saturday.
Rebounding has been another problem in spite of Sampson.Virginia which has played, and lost, on the road the last five weekends, has been outrebounded in its last five games.
Finally, there is Coach Terry Holland. He has been unable to light a fire under this team. UVA is, basically, an emotionless team with no one willing to rally the troops when things get tough. They play at the same emotional level in almost all situations.
Holland, always a superb bench coach, has not helped with his continual complaining about the officiating. That kind of thing is infectious. Those who have followed the team this season note that lately Sampson has taken to complaining about every call that goes against him. Holland does the same thing.
With two weeks left in the regular season there is no time to pull things together. But the Cavs face road games at North Carolina and at Maryland. tThey were 18-8 going into the ACC tournament a year ago. The record might not be that good this year.
Recently, Holland was asked by a reporter if, looking at his team prior to the season, he would have been disappointed at the thought of going to the NIT.
Always honest, Holland answered yes, the NIT would be a disappointment. But if Virginia doesn't get its act together soon, disappointment may be all that remains.