This season could not start fast enough. Since most UVa fans have been done with football for about a month now, the Men’s Basketball season will be a breath of fresh air and renewed hope. For the first time since the 2001-2002 basketball season, Virginia will start the season ranked in the Top 25: 24th in the AP and 25th in the coaches. Combine that with a preseason pick to finish 4th in the new 15-team ACC and you have very inflated expectations for the season. But why so high on the Hoos? It starts with the team, and mainly, their depth.
The Hoos have only made the tourney 1 year under Bennett, in 2011 with Mike Scott, and barely scraped in because of late season injuries. Last year’s team was tested with players out at key times during the year and suffered some pretty bad losses that kept them out of the NCAA and put them as a 1-seed in the NIT. This year the key ingredients are all there: go-to player, solid starting lineup, and players off the bench. In Part I of our preview, let’s look at the team the Cavs will be fielding this year.
Malcolm Brogdon, R2nd, Norcoss, GA
Teven Jones, 2nd, Kannapolis, NC
Devon Hall, 1st, Virginia Beach, VA
London Perrantes, 1st, Los Angeles, CA
With Evans graduation, Virginia is still searching for their #1 starter at point. The popular choice is Brogdon, who is coming off a medical redshirt season and converted from shooting guard to point guard about halfway into the 2011-2012 season. Point production has always been an issue with that spot, but with the scorers on this team all battling for their shot, could Brogdon see some more 2 guard action and let some of the other run the point? Teven Jones was Jontel’s running mate last year and started the first couple of games til Evans returned, but his assist-to-turnover ratio was just slightly better than 1 and shot the ball worse from the field than Evans. Now both of UVa’s 2013 1st year class members are point guards, but while Devon Hall is your more prototypical pass-first PG, Perrantes will be more of a shooter, who could evolve enough to spell a 2 guard. Look for Bennett to work a lot of people at point early on to see who he really has for the ACC run.
Joe Harris, 4th, Chelan, WA
Justin Anderson, 2nd, Montross, VA
I don’t think there is much discussion on who is getting the start at SG. Harris is Preseason 1st team All-ACC, and if it wasn’t for some sick/fatherly ACC media-types, he would have been the Pre-POY as well. One thing this slot needs is someone who can make the 3 besides Harris. Now Brogdon wasn’t bad in ’11-’12 from behind the arc (.324), and we still have to talk about Nolte, but one area of concern this season is the 3-ball. When you play at the pace the Hoos play, the 3 is a major factor both offensively and defensively. Anderson will most likely start at SF, but could back up Harris when they put Nolte in. Brogdon is an easy move over to 2-guard with one of the younger points in the game and if Perrantes shot is as good as we hear, could play in some end of half sets.
3- Small Forward
Evan Nolte, 2nd, Milton, GA
Darion Atkins, 3rd, Clinton, MD
You could tell early on that Justin Anderson was going to be special. So much so that he caught and surpassed Jesperson in the depth chart, who is no longer on the team. Now while Anderson has some work to do behind the arc, his mid-range and athletic ability make him perfect anywhere inside the 3-point line. Nolte is a better 3-point shooting guard/forward (39% last season) and will see plenty of time on the court, and even could play a little 2 as well. If Virginia has to go big, you might see Atkins around here as well, but that could be for brief stints.
Akil Mitchell, 4th, Charlotte, NC
Anthony Gill, R2nd, Charlotte, NC (transfer USC)
Virginia has a real interesting situation down low this season. While Mitchell and Atkins are very seasoned at this spot, transfer Anthony Gill is making a lot of noise around the office. How much noise? Comparisons to early Travis Watson and Junior Burroughs noise. He is a true post player and offensive rebounding machine. Put him next to Mitchell and that is a formidable starting frontcourt team, if UVa doesn’t start a true center.
Mike Tobey, 2nd, Monroe, NY
Don’t think I have forgotten about Tobey. He is a true center and the Hoos love the work he got on the USA National team over the summer. He can score anywhere on the court, which makes him more of a European Center than a down low player like a Sene. That doesn’t mean he can’t post up defend, and will be utilized against bigger front court teams. Again, with the trend in college basketball the 5 is more like a ‘4 part 2’, so Mitchell and or Gill will likely get time in the post.
The Other Guys
Maleek Frazier, 3rd, Charlottesville, VA
Rob Vozenilek, 3rd, Richmond, VA
Caid Kirven, 2nd, Raleigh, NC
Thomas Rogers, 4th, Farmville, VA
Jeff Jones, 1st, Charlottesville, VA
I’m not knocking our fearless walk-ons. I just don’t know a lot about them. But the recent trend has been one guy from this group has gotten some significant playing time. Last year it was Agent Zero, Doug Browman. 2010-11, it was Will Sherrill, who even cracked into the starting lineup. Rogers, Kirven, and Vozenilek have the most experience of the group. Maleek is a former student manager and first time walk on. And Jeff Jones Jr. should ring a bell as he is the son of former UVa coach current ODU coach Jeff Jones.
The Hoos have a very interchangeable lineup and are very deep to handle a bevy of matchups. What they will have to make sure to do is make sure they know who can run the point and who else besides Harris and Nolte can reliably knock down 3s. Otherwise, look out for a team that can really score and is the biggest in the paint they have been in years.