UVa Basketball Preview Part II: The Schedule

Yesterday we looked at the Cavalier squad, today we will attempt to breakdown the schedule. Last year the Hoos got dinged by the NCAA Selection Committee on two fronts: their non-conference schedule and too many ‘big losses’. This year’s schedule is certainly augmented by the inclusion of 3 new ACC teams and an 18-game conference slate, but it is the work scheduling outside the league that will not hinder the Hoos at all this year.

The ‘Pre-Season’

11/08/13              vs. James Madison

11/12/13              vs. #14 VCU

11/16/13              vs. Davidson @ Charlotte, N.C. 

11/19/13              vs. Navy

Even the lead games are worthwhile this season. While JMU was picked to finish 7th in the 9 team CAA, it still is a CAA team, and the Hoos laid a huge goose egg 0-3 against the Colonial last year. The jewel of the early schedule is definitely the in-state battle with ranked VCU in Charlottesville, with Smart’s up-tempo HAVOC vs. Bennett’s possession-value HOLDUP. If you are looking for that early upset game, look no further than the Davidson game, which will be played in Charlotte where the NBA Bobcats play. These Bobcats routinely are one of the best teams in the Southern Conference and won it last year, with 2008 being their best year in 40 years, ending in an Elite Eight appearance. Navy will be Navy.

The Stars At Night….

11/23/13              vs. Liberty

11/26/13              vs. Hampton

11/29/13              vs. SMU @Corpus Christi, Texas               

11/30/13              vs. Texas A&M/Missouri State @Corpus Christi, Texas

While these preseason tourney are expanding to make sure they get a solid field coming to their tournaments, it does take a knock on ticket sales and strength of schedules. Virginia missed the Preseason NIT by losing to Delaware on their home court and thus had to play 2 more home games against lower ranked teams instead of possible Top 15 competition. Virginia’s pre-conference tournament this year, The Corpus Christi Challenge, should not provide any road bumps to get to unlike last season, with in-state Liberty and Hampton coming to Charlottesville. Sadly, the Challenge itself will not be loaded either. The Hoos will match up with SMU, who finish 5-11 in the C-USA last year, and will face either Texas A&M or Missouri State in the next round. None of those teams finished above .500 in their own conferences, which makes this scheduling decision iffy at best.

Take Two

12/04/13              vs. #20 Wisconsin

12/07/13              at Green Bay

ESPN must have loved the game last year against the Badgers so much that they decided to do it again. And how could you not love a game played between 2 slower paced teams? While the game at Wisconsin was emotional for Bennett last season, it will be the home-home series trip to Green Bay that will test himself tenfold. It is his alma mater and the place where he set the NCAA mark for 3-point accuracy and where he was born. 2 schools from his state in 3 day will push him to the emotional limit, with only one of them really up in the air on W/L.

Trap City, USA

12/21/13              vs. Northern Iowa

12/23/13              vs. Norfolk State

12/30/13              at Tennessee

Right before the ACC season gets rolling is where Virginia tends to slip up. Last year, it was ODU. Three years ago it was Seattle and Iowa State. These three games after exams are ones to keep your eyes on. Northern Iowa has a very, very solid team returning this year and was picked 3rd in a usually strong mid-major conference, MVC. Norfolk State went 16-0 in the MEAC and played UVa tight last year in the NIT in Charlottesville. And the ultimate test before conference season will be the road trip to Tennessee, where most people (including myself) believe that Tennessee has a Top-20 team on their hands in a top heavy SEC. I don’t see Virginia emerging without a loss from this group, and it might come from someone we don’t expect.

New and Improved

01/04/14              at Florida State

01/08/14              vs. Wake Forest

01/11/14              at NC State

01/13/14              at #4 Duke

01/18/14              vs. Florida State

01/20/14              vs. #12 North Carolina

01/25/14              vs. Virginia Tech

01/28/14              at #21 Notre Dame

02/02/14              at Pittsburgh

02/05/14              vs. Boston College

02/08/14              at Georgia Tech

02/10/14              vs. Maryland

02/15/14              at Clemson

02/18/14              at Virginia Tech

02/22/14              vs. #21 Notre Dame

02/26/14              vs. Miami

03/01/14              vs. #8 Syracuse

03/09/14              at Maryland

You know it was coming, but until the schedule comes out, it doesn’t quite sink in. With the ACC a 15-team, 18-game conference slate, Virginia will get everyone once, and Maryland, Virginia Tech, Norte Dame and FSU twice. While UVa is thankful not have to play Duke, SU, and UNC twice and get 2 of them at home, there are some pretty tough stretches this season, including 2 back-to-back road games at NCSU/Duke and at ND/Pitt and a closing stretch of ND-Miami-Syracuse-at Maryland. By mid-February, the Hoos will need to be well positioned in that coveted Top 4 to get the double-bye.

Verdict

The Hoos have beefed up their non-conference schedule in order to take that argument off the table. VCU, Wisconsin, and Tennessee will test Virginia early and wins against these foes would put tick marks in the ‘good win’ column. While the ACC season is expanded to 18 games, the fact that the Hoos only have to play the ‘Top 3’ teams once this year does not help our RPI. Still, a strong ACC will most certainly keep Virginia in the safe part of the RPI table. All they have to do is win.

Tomorrow: Part III: Season Predictions 

Hamilton Riley

About Hamilton Riley

Mild mannered contractor by day, sports blogger by insomnia.

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