Although teams have been able to practice officially for the past few weeks, Friday October 14th marked what many fans view as the start of college basketball with many programs holding late night events to celebrate the upcoming season. UVA does not host a late night event but even without the festivities this season should be something for fans to celebrate.
UVA suffered some key losses after last season’s heart-breaking Elite 8 defeat to Syracuse. The departures of Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill, and Mike Tobey have left big shoes to be filled by the returning players. Even with these key losses Virginia shouldn’t worry too much. The players returning for the Cavaliers should still be a force to be reckoned with in the ACC and in the NCAA as well.
The Cavaliers will be led by London Perrantes, who was one of the nation’s deadliest shooters from beyond the arc last season, as well as, Austin Nichols, an elite forward that transferred from Memphis. Behind these two centerpieces Virginia will go into 2016-17 with two stars and a lot of depth from other returners. Overall Virginia’s roster will feature seven players with starting experience for division-I programs therefore they each should bring meaningful contributions to the court. This team is built for postseason success and with an excellent coach like Tony Bennett. A Final Four or National Championship is not out of the picture for the Cavaliers.
Virginia will be a battle-tested team due to what is most likely the toughest schedule they have faced since Tony Bennett arrived in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers face three of last year’s Final Four teams and a multitude of teams that participated in last year’s NCAA tournament. Playing in the ACC, which might be the most competitive it’s ever been, will also provide UVA with plenty of challenges each week.
Despite the tough competition, the Cavaliers have a great opportunity in front of them. The program has many new faces with its four freshmen, one redshirt freshman, and one transfer, but each one brings a lot of talent to the table. The tough schedule will provide a challenge but will get the team through growing pains and provide some much needed experience against teams it can expect to see in March. This season will be defined by player’s ability to step up, whether it be players stepping up to replace the leadership and star power of Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill, or new guys being able to handle big minutes and big responsibility from day one. If UVA is firing on all cylinders, behind the mentoring of Tony Bennett, this team can do something very special this season.
2016-2017 Record: 28-8
NCAA Prediction: Elite 8
ACC Standing (ACC Record): 2nd Place Finish (13-5)
My Predicted Starting Lineup:
Guard- London Perrantes
Guard- Devon Hall
Guard- Kyle Guy
Forward- Isaiah Wilkins
Forward- Austin Nichols