Yesterday, the ACC, and subsequently UVa, released the Men’s Basketball schedule for this season. And while last year’s aggressive “trial by fire” schedule was supposed to break in the freshmen in, this year’s schedule is a “pardon by apathy” and features a schedule that even Seth Greenberg would pine for. For those of you that do things other than wait by your computer with your finger on F5 all day, here is a quick, very early rundown of what the schedule looks likes.
Easiest Opponent: Take your pick, we are loaded with them. The schedule is loaded with a variable Who’s Who of mid-level mid-majors. South Carolina State, Winthrop, Longwood, UMES, and Towson. This doesn’t help the NCAA cause
Hardest Opponent: Michigan at home in the Big Ten/ ACC Challenge. Not only is it another team on the rise, about a year ahead of UVa’s progress, but it constitutes a national audience focusing on the merits of this year’s Cavaliers. If there is a must win this is it.
Important Wins: We take a road trip to the west coast again this year and face a fledgling Oregon team on the court that Phil Knight abused. We follow that up with the back end of our home-home with Seattle. This is a Seattle team that spanked UVa last year and shouldn’t have. Revenge is a dish best served Orange and Blue. A close second would be the trip to Baton Rouge to play LSU, an easy win last year at home, might not be on the road.
Upset Alert: Tucked in before the Pacific trip is George Mason. Don’t think for a second that they will take this game like most other teams, they are coming for a win. If they are like the Patriot teams of the past, this could be a good opportunity to bolster a resume.
U.S. Virgin Island Paradise Jam
Like the idea of fun in the sun in November. But the field is very week. Yes Marquette is there, but we would face them only if we make it to the finals. We play TCU first, then either Drexel or Norfolk State in the next round, which should be two wins. My biggest problem is there is a possibility, although slim, that we could play Winthrop....AGAIN! I mean, c’mon guys, this tourney was scheduled a long time ago.
The schedule is not as daunting as it used to be, but it is still loaded with plenty of opportunities to prove that we belong in a post season tournament.
The No Love Matchup: Right off the bat, the ACC wants UVa to play Miami, the source of not one, but two, embarrassing losses. We get them at home, and they have endured some big off season injuries and attrition, so a win right off the bat will be crucial for the Hoos to get a win.
Road Trips: Virginia has two back-to-back road trips on the books. First is a trip to Duke followed by one to Atlanta and Georgia Tech. Duke might and probably will not happen, but GT is a very winnable game. Next up is UNC then Clemson, two very tough games regardless of where they are played. A split will do wonders for selection committees.
Home Cooking: We don’t get to double up on the bottom of the ACC this year, but they are all at home. Miami, Boston College, and Wake Forrest represent the best chances for “easy wins” late in the season.
The Case for VT and MD: Last point I would like to make. Regardless of what a few people think, Maryland is, and should always be, the last game of the season. It has been that way for as long as I can remember, and has made for some very memorable games. The rivalry with Tech is important, but we have other rivals as well. If you don’t think so, come to JPJ for a UVa/UMD game. No love lost there.
UVa Makes it to the NCAA Tournament If...: The Hoos take care of their NCOs with ease and only one or two losses, make it to the finals of the Paradise Jam, and finish 3rd or 4th in the ACC, with a decent run in the ACC tourney. Anything less with our SOS could put us squarely in the NIT.
UVa Stays Home this Postseason If...: The team does not gel early, which leads to bad losses we can’t recover from. In the ACC, we don’t hold serve at home against the league in what looks like only UNC and VT will be tough games.
The BIG question is: Can UVa rely upon the "jab" (as in Jesperson, Atkins and Brogdon)? Do two Mr. Basketball guards from Wisconsin and Georgia plus a shot-blocker and rebounder from metro-D.C. give us a future which begins this coming January?
Will Mike Scott give UVa a full-season of production that builds off the promise of the 10 healthy games he gave us last year? In other words, will we have what so few Cavalier teams have had in the past ... strength at the strong forward position?
We need to have a 20-win season this year, followed by a ;second blue-chip recruiting class and another 20+ win season next year. If the program falls back to a position similar to the latter years of Coach Bennett's predecessor, I fear several more lean years in JPJ.