Keep in mind that last week I, like everyone else, would never have though UVa would knock of Arizona. Although in retrospect, there have been few teams as consistently overrated in basketball than the Wildcats. On with the late, late, show:
Last Year: The Cavs were another of the host of mediocre ACC schools, going 15-15, 7-9 in conference, and an opening round loss in the NIT to Stanford. This was primarily the results of a lackluster offense, second only to Maryland in poor scoring efficency, and having the worst effective field goal percentage in the league. They were an average defensive team, although second only to UNC in defensive rebounds but the league worst in generating turnovers. The end result was a effective points margin down at Wake Forest levels, as the team just couldn't buy an offensive break.
Comings and Goings: The good news, however, is that the Cavaliers return their entire starting five. This includes the two team capitans, guards, and general lynchpins of the team, Sean Singletary (17.7 ppg, 4.2 apg) and J.R. Reynolds (17.0 ppg, 3.1 apg), now a junior and senior, respectively. Look for their importance to only increase, with a faster pace and more perimeter shooting. Of the remaining starters, Jason Cain (7.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg) sahowed the most promise, and as a senior will be relied on to lead the front court. Lithuanian Laurynas Mikalauskas (6.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and Adrian Joseph (9.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg) round out the starting five, bringing primarily good rebounding skills and a defensive presence to the table.
The Cavaliers were never particularly deep last year, with Mamadi Diane (6 ppg, 3.7 rpg) getting a brunt of the playing time. He took the starting job from Reynolds for the Arizona game, and with his performance their proably won't relenquish it any time soon. A third backcourt weapon just makes Virginia even more dangerous. Billy Campbell (1.3 ppg, 1 rpg) at guard and Tunji Soroye (1.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg) were also good for some minutes, though look for those to shrink as more of Dave Leitao's recruits arrive on campus. University of Pennsylvania tranfer Ryan Pettinella immediately steps into the center spot in the UVa frontcourt. How impressive he plays will go far in determining the success of this team.
The freshman seeing playing time this early in the season are primarily Wil Harris and Solomon Tat, both long shooting guard/small forward type players, a position already well contested for this season. It's Jamil Tucker that was Leitao's most impressive looking recruit, who at forward could definitely work himself into being a critical part of this team come February.
The Outlook: Leitao took a team destined to finish at the bottom of the conference in his first year and lifted them to a respectable tie for 7th. Still, there's always been a limit to how well guard play alone can take you in this conference, and without a frontcourt presence to support the Singletary-Reynolds-Diane menace, UVa could struggle through quite a few games.
Preseason Poll Finish: 8th, quite a bit low.
Carolina March Forecast: 8-8 in the ACC and two rounds deep in the NCAA's.
- MP3 Reference in the Title: Chin Up, Chin Up, "Virginia, Don't Drown"