ACC Summer Recess: Virginia CavaliersPosted by KCarpenter on July 30th, 2012
Over the next four weeks we’ll be taking a step back and looking at each team in the ACC to assess where each program — and the conference as a whole — stands before we totally turn our attention to the 2013-14 season later this fall. Today’s target: Virginia.
Where They Stand Now
Heading down the stretch, it looked like Virginia was poised to have a moment. Mike Scott was easily one of the two best players in the conference and there was an instant where it looked like the Cavaliers might have the juice to win the ACC. A team that played insanely tough defense just couldn’t find enough offense, though, losing two of its last three games, dropping one to North Carolina State in the first game of the ACC Tournament and getting totally obliterated by Florida in its NCAA Tournament opener. It was a crushingly disappointing end to one of the best seasons of Virginia basketball in years.
In terms of seniors, Virginia is losing its bedrock in Scott, who was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in the early second round after a storied career in Charlottesville. Also hurting their frontcourt depth, seven-footer Assane Sene, was injured and then left the team at the very end of the season, though he would have otherwise presumably graduated and moved on anyway. Finally, the Cavaliers lose Sammy Zeglinski, a reliable veteran guard. During last season, the transfer plague that has dogged Virginia struck again, sending K.T. Harrell to Auburn and James Johnson to San Diego State.
Jontel Evans, Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell will serve as the veteran core of the team, with Evans acting as starting point guard and the team’s lone scholarship senior likely taking ownership of the team. Rising sophomore Malcolm Brogdon will likely be featured after a nice breakout freshman season, and his classmates Paul Jesperson and Darion Atkins will also play big minutes for the Cavaliers. Atkins in particular is intriguing because of the truly gaudy efficiency stats he posted in his limited playing time as a freshman. Tempo-free gurus love Atkins, clocking him as the best offensive rebounder and shotblocker on the team last season. Very stealthily, Atkins also actually posted the highest field goal percentage on the team, even outdoing the efficiency monster, teammate Mike Scott. Now, Atkins posted these numbers in limited minutes and with a very low usage rate, but if last season was a harbinger of future performance, the Cavaliers will have a very good player.
The Cavaliers have a very nice group of players coming in next year. The highlight of the bunch is Justin Anderson, a top-50 small forward in his class and a very talented guy. Aside from Anderson, Virginia is bringing in two more four-star recruits in center Mike Tobey and small forward Evan Nolte. Depending on how short Tony Bennett wants to keep his bench, all three of these players are candidates to play meaningful rotation minutes. Less likely to contribute immediately, but important for the depth chart are guards Teven Jones and Taylor Barnette, who will probably be playing spot minutes unless there is an injury.
After losing the core of players who led Virginia to a great season (albeit a crummy postseason), Virginia is going to be in the process of rebuilding next year. However, bringing in a strong recruiting class to bolster a talented group of returning players means that the Cavaliers will be a real factor in the league next year, if not a clear title contender.