College Basketball: 2013-14 Virginia Cavaliers Preview

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Joe Harris aims to lead stingy Cavs back to the Tourney

College Basketball: 2013-14 Virginia Preview

This preview and more on Virginia and the ACC are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

Virginia Facts & Figures
Last season: 23-12 (11-7 ACC)
Postseason: NIT quarterfinals
Coach: Tony Bennett (76-53 at Virginia)
ACC projection: Fifth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
Win games, lose players. That incongruous trend continued for Virginia in 2012-13. For the fourth straight year, the Cavaliers won more games than the season before. And for the fourth straight year, a couple of players bailed.

The departures of guards Paul Jesperson, who started 33 games and Taylor Barnette, who started two, bring to 10 the number of transfers under coach Tony Bennett, who is entering his fifth year. It’s a puzzling aspect of the affable Bennett’s tenure. Even to him.

“There are different reasons why guys leave, but it’s just more and more of a reality, it’s a different time. It’s not just here, it’s everywhere where you’re going to fight that,” he says.

If Virginia is not exactly winning the fight, it’s definitely surviving it. Quite nicely, in fact. Projected to tumble into the ACC’s second division after reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2012, Bennett’s Cavs instead maintained the program’s quiet momentum, finishing fourth in the conference and advancing to the quarterfinals of the NIT.

While it can’t be called a step forward, it certainly wasn’t much of a step back. Bennett showed that his program has developed staying power.

This year, the Cavaliers could find out how high their ceiling is. With every key contributor except Jesperson and point guard Jontel Evans back, and with guard Malcolm Brogdon returning from a foot injury and South Carolina transfer Anthony Gill bolstering the frontcourt, this is easily Bennett’s biggest, most athletic and versatile team.

Frontcourt

With size, depth and athleticism to spare, Virginia could have one of the ACC’s best frontcourts.

Mike Tobey is the hub. The 6-11 sophomore spent part of the summer playing for the U.S. team at the U19 World Championship. Though he didn’t play a ton on a loaded squad, the experience was invaluable, he says. “Definitely, the experience helped me see more potential and see what I can do down the road,” he says.

Tobey flashed that potential last year, giving Virginia a true back-to-the basket presence. His development was slowed by a bout of mononucleosis that caused him to miss five games. But with added strength and stamina, Tobey could blossom.

Forward Akil Mitchell certainly blossomed last year, finishing with more double-doubles (12) than All-ACC pick Mike Scott did the previous year. The 6-8 Mitchell and the springy, 6-8 Darion Atkins give Virginia two of the ACC’s better frontcourt defenders.

Gill, who started 26 games at South Carolina as a freshman two years ago, is a former high school teammate of Mitchell. He’ll push Atkins for playing time.  

The addition of Gill should allow Evan Nolte, who hit the freshman wall after being forced to bang inside more than he was ready for, to move to a more natural spot on the wing. He hit 39 percent of his 3-point attempts last year.

Backcourt

Did we mention size and depth? That’s the story in the backcourt as well.

Amid all the roster churn of the last four years, senior Joe Harris has been a constant, an impact player from Day 1 who became an All-ACC selection last year. The sweet-shooting Harris was on a tear through the season’s first 28 games but wore down over the final seven. Playing more than 32 minutes per game and drawing so much defensive attention took a toll.

He’ll have more help this year. The versatile Brodgon, who played both guard positions before breaking his foot in February 2012, returns after missing all of last season. He’s likely to get first crack at the point guard position, where he’s got an edge in experience over incoming freshmen Devon Hall and London Perrantes.

The ultra-athletic and energetic Justin Anderson, spectacular at times as a freshman last year, could be poised for a breakout year.

Newcomers

In a departure from the usual, someone transferred in for a change. Anthony Gill was reportedly a load to handle in practice last year and will help right away. Devon Hall is a rangy, pass-first point who made some national top-100 recruit lists. London Perrantes, who also got some top-100 mentions, comes all the way from Los Angeles, where he had Pac-12 offers galore.

Final Analysis
Factoid: Virginia prefers a chilly pace, with scores in 50s whenever possible. The Cavs allowed just 55.6 points per game, fifth in the nation.


Maybe slow and steady does win the race. Bennett’s patient, deliberate approach — on and off the court — is gathering steam.

Bennett has recruited well, and although Virginia’s attrition rate has been high, the players who have bought in have developed, and the program has established an identity and style of play.

The influx of new members has made the ACC tougher than ever. Virginia is doing what it can to keep pace.

Win games, lose players. That incongruous trend continued for Virginia in 2012-13. For the fourth straight year, the Cavaliers won more games than the season before. And for the fourth straight year, a couple of players bailed.

The departures of guards Paul Jesperson, who started 33 games and Taylor Barnette, who started two, bring to 10 the number of transfers under coach Tony Bennett, who is entering his fifth year. It’s a puzzling aspect of the affable Bennett’s tenure. Even to him.

“There are different reasons why guys leave, but it’s just more and more of a reality, it’s a different time. It’s not just here, it’s everywhere where you’re going to fight that,” he says.

If Virginia is not exactly winning the fight, it’s definitely surviving it. Quite nicely, in fact. Projected to tumble into the ACC’s second division after reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2012, Bennett’s Cavs instead maintained the program’s quiet momentum, finishing fourth in the conference and advancing to the quarterfinals of the NIT.

While it can’t be called a step forward, it certainly wasn’t much of a step back. Bennett showed that his program has developed staying power.

This year, the Cavaliers could find out how high their ceiling is. With every key contributor except Jesperson and point guard Jontel Evans back, and with guard Malcolm Brogdon returning from a foot injury and South Carolina transfer Anthony Gill bolstering the frontcourt, this is easily Bennett’s biggest, most athletic and versatile team. - See more at: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:1IZn8kRNr8gJ:athlonsports.com/college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-virginia-preview+&cd=4&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a#sthash.gcR4VOGE.dpuf
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