When the year began, the Virginia Cavaliers made it a point to avoid the types of missteps that derailed their season a year ago and relegated them to an NIT bid. There were three main areas the team had to lock down: a solid showing in the non-conference schedule; more offensive production from the point guard position; and avoiding a late-season collapse in ACC play. Conference play is now on the horizon, and the Cavaliers will have to look themselves in the mirror knowing they failed miserably at the first area of emphasis, have more questions than answers about the second, and will absolutely have to reverse the trend of the third to make an NCAA Tournament run. Nothing is as head coach Tony Bennett expected for his team roughly a third of the way into the 2013-14 season.
Virginia had two match-ups against ranked foes prior to conference play. They suffered a heartbreaking loss to VCU at home in November and then bowed out of a horrifically low-scoring affair against Wisconsin in December, again at home. A bad loss to Wisconsin Green-Bay, Bennett’s alma mater, followed, putting the Cavs in a precarious position with only a game at Tennessee left as a possible noteworthy non-conference victory. That evaporated early and often Monday night, as Virginia was overwhelmed by the Volunteers from start to finish in a crushing 35-point loss. The demoralizing score and performance would be devastating enough if it weren’t also serving as a microcosm of their entire season.