Five takeaways from Virginia's unceremonious NCAA Tournament loss to Colorado State

The Virginia Cavaliers unceremoniously bowed out of the NCAA Tournament in their first matchup with Colorado State, as the Rams jumped out to an early lead thanks to UVA's icy cold start and never let the 'Hoos get back into the game. The game wasn't as close as the 67-42 final score indicated, with 15 minutes of overtime capping off a frustrating loss that ended Virginia's first season with a win away from the round of 64. The team's cold offense was the story all night: Virginia went 52 minutes without a shot from 9:48 EST to 10:40 EST and shot 25 percent from the ground.

Here are the five final takeaways from the season after UVA's final loss in a season of blowout losses, a frustrating end to an uneven and ultimately disappointing season:

A cold first half decimated Virginia in the first 20 minutes

In a season filled with bad offensive innings, the Cavaliers laid perhaps their biggest egg of the entire year in the first half against Colorado State. The Hoos finished the half with just 14 points from 5 for a very miserable 29 from the field, their lowest scoring half of the season. They did not score a single point in the final 9:20 and did not make a field goal after the 10:30 mark. Eleven shots came from mid-range and only one fell.

The Hoos held a 13-point lead despite a very strong defensive performance. Helped in part by a few completely unforced turnovers by the Rams, UVA held Colorado State to just 27 points in the first half — one of its least efficient scoring halves of the year. Star Isaiah Stevens only scored three points, and the Rams made tough shots all half. Virginia won the possession battle, converting just one turnover into six for CSU and limiting the Rams to just two offensive rebounds. But that doesn't matter.

UVA's “core three” struggled to find a rhythm

In what will likely be the final game of his career at the University of Virginia, Reece Beckman will certainly wish he had been able to do more. Defensively, Reese was his typical shut-in self and shut down Isaiah Stevens. But on offense, he simply couldn't buy a basket. Those typical mid-range shots that Beckman usually drops in a recent clip didn't all work out. He missed some shots at the rim early and couldn't work with limited space. The three-pointer did not fall. He finished with 15 points on 4-16 from the floor and four assists in one turnover. On a frustrating night for everyone on the roster, Beckman was probably the most frustrated with the way this game went. This is not how he wanted his amazing career to end.

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Virginia's other two “core” players — Ryan Dunn and Isaac McNeely, who have started every available game this season — haven't quite picked up the slack. Dunn scored the first four points of the game for the Cavaliers and started out very strong defensively but then disappeared on the offensive end, and early foul trouble in the second half almost completely negated his impact on the game. Isaac McNeely started out cold and couldn't get anything going the entire game. Early in the second half, he blocked a completely open 14-footer on a broken play that Imac would probably make in his sleep at an 80 percent rate. He finished with six points on just 2-13 from the field.

The role players were not able to step up and bear the burden

When the Cavaliers have played their best basketball this season, it has been thanks to strong performances by their role players. Early in the year, Blake Buchanan's breakout game off the bench gave UVA its best win of the season over Florida. Then, Jake Groves' scorching hot shot propelled the Cavaliers to their mid-season ACC win streak at eight games. Even as the Hoos faltered down the stretch, Taine Murray began to emerge as a reliable scorer off the bench. He forced his way into the starting lineup today.

None of that was evident in Dayton. Jake Groves was probably the poster boy for the Hoos' wasted big-time role player: He hit a wide-open wing three late in the first half and then air-balled a corner three in the second that was likely UVA's final shot to start Run and then make your way back into the game. Grove even missed two free throws! But it's in no way fair to pin it entirely on him — a whole group of players whose simple contributions were crucial to a UVA team starved for any kind of offense are gone en masse against Colorado State. Andrew Rudd, Tyne Murray, Jake Groves and Dante Harris combined to go 0-10 from the floor in the first 30 minutes of the game. On a night when UVA was desperate for someone to pick up the slack, no one (outside of Jordan Minor's big spurt for about five minutes in the second half) rose to the occasion.

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UVA needs to rethink its offensive philosophy

This is the type of game that should force us to re-evaluate Virginia's offensive philosophy, full stop. Coaches can't go out there and put the ball in the basket for players, but they can put the team in a better position to score than the current immobilizer does. People like to selectively forget how effective Bennett's crimes were in the mid-2000s, but it's a system that has outlived its usefulness. As basketball at the highest level continues to move toward increased spacing and ball-screen-heavy attacks to get players moving toward the basket, Virginia spends too much time on each possession working on curls in the mid-range or poor ball rotations around the perimeter.

It's okay to play slow and not push in transition as a stylistic choice, but it's not okay to not look to score for large portions of the shot clock on each possession. Virginia doesn't have the offensive talent to be an elite team on that side of the field, but there's absolutely no reason why it should be that bad — by the time KenPom is updated to reflect this putrid outing, UVA will be outside the top 200 in offensive efficiency. Tony Bennett's philosophy brought Virginia into the program's golden age, and many of its principles — his pack-line defense and his attitude toward basketball in general — still hold up. But the offensive scheme needs to get creative to create more downward movement and get the ball to key non-mid-range areas of the field.

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Another Virginia Cavaliers basketball season ends in disappointment

Well, it was fun while it lasted. The Cavaliers snuck into the NCAA Tournament against popular consensus and were fortunate to get one last shot at the Big Dance before their season ended despite their predictive metrics being far lower than those of their average players. Regardless of whether the Obsessive family deserved their place, she had a chance to remove the bitter taste caused by her internal collapse. North Carolina State Leave in everyone's mouths with a win. However, this was the worst possible outcome for another NCAA Tournament game.

Since that stunning 85-77 overtime victory in 2019, the Cavaliers have not won a single March Madness match. This is perhaps the least disappointing loss of the three since — this year's UVA team may not have been as good as Colorado State, while Virginia almost certainly should have earned the No. 4 seed in 2021 and 2023 against Ohio and Furman, respectively. – But it might be the most embarrassing. A miserable 14-point run, Virginia's worst in 50-plus games since 2022. ACC Championship Against North Carolina, it turned the Cavaliers into a national joke as the country watched the team basically go cold throughout the game.

A program doesn't need a national title every year to be successful – there are steps to success. But for the fifth straight season since that magical run in 2019, UVA's basketball season has ended poorly.

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