It happened again Monday night. And injured wing Justin Anderson's absence wasn't the issue. He never really helped with this.
Virginia won ugly.
The second-ranked Cavaliers topped Pitt 61-49. That was not unexpected. Neither was the not-made-for-TV sluggishness that has helped Tony Bennett become the national coach of the year frontrunner, put his team at the top of the ACC and compete for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
But what if Virginia as a 1-seed is bad for college basketball? Not the competition, but the product.
That's the question. Virginia is one of the best programs in America. That's obvious. A healthy Virginia beat Maryland by 11, VCU by 17, Notre Dame by six and North Carolina by 11 -- all on the road. Its only blemish, a 69-63 home loss to Duke on Jan. 31, was the result of a breathtaking rally by the Blue Devils in the final minutes.
Virginia can win a national championship if Anderson, a Wooden Award candidate, returns in time to lead the Cavs in the NCAA tournament.
February is the month when casual fans begin to arrive. The gamblers, the bus drivers, the CEOs, the salesmen. There's a good chance they will all participate in some office pool, and this post-Super Bowl stretch is a time to get reacquainted with college basketball, gather information and enjoy what's ultimately a secondary passion for most.
College basketball's ongoing conflict remains: How can the game's leaders and visionaries turn those March Madness types into consistent supporters of the game?
That solution must involve upgrading the sexiness of the sport. A multitude of proposals and suggestions that could “open up” the game might help, including the possible introduction of a 30-second shot clock. There's also chatter about altering defensive restrictions.
Translation: Let's run more.
As recently as a decade ago, it wasn't crazy to see a team average 88 points per game over the course of a season. Scoring and pace -- not efficiency -- have changed.
Virginia, 350th in adjusted tempo per Ken Pomeroy, is the poster child for that phenomena. The Cavs' milk-every-second-of-the-shot-clock offense and pack-line defense do everything to make Bennett's program a shrewd chessmaster who employs calculated maneuvers in grind-it-out contests his team usually wins.
It does nothing, however, for college basketball's mass appeal.
At halftime of Monday's game, Virginia held a 25-15 lead over Pitt. The per-possession aficionados will gush over Virginia's overall effectiveness. But the casual fan is responsible for the explosion of popularity that encompasses the sport in March. That casual fan doesn't care about per-possession numbers and efficiency.
That casual fan cares about entertainment. There's nothing entertaining about a 25-15 half of basketball. It's even difficult for the game's true supporters to digest.
Virginia, however, is not alone. Other teams slow the game down for their benefit too. And why not? It works for Virginia. Bennett's squad is the top team in one of America's strongest leagues.
The Cavaliers deserve a top seed if they continue to push through the ACC. That's not debatable. And Virginia has the goods to reach the Final Four. A trip to Indianapolis would be a major step for Bennett and one his program will deserve if it continues to thrive.
That doesn't mean, however, that it is the postseason run the game needs.