December 2, 2020

Independent analysis and commentary on UVA athletics

Tipoff

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Basketball is back. The Virginia Cavaliers are still the Reigning National Champions. Mamadi Diakite and Braxton Key graduated without the opportunity to defend their title, without the chance to cap what was a remarkable 2019-20 season with another ACC Championship and National Championship. They leave behind a cohort fully capable of adding to the banners in the rafters of the John Paul Jones Arena – if they get the chance.

Basketball is back for now, but we cannot know today how many games will actually be played. We already know the season will include fewer games, but how many? Will the tournaments be played this year? Probably, in a bubble we’re sure, but if this country does not get this disease under control, there may be no choice. Our athletes’ lives are more important than our sports. But for now, we have games to anticipate and players to get to know better.

Basketball is back, and so are we. This is the fourth annual HOOS Place Virginia Basketball Season Preview. Hard to believe. We first previewed the 2017-18 season, the team led by Isaiah Wilkins and Devon Hall to Tony Bennett’s second double ACC Championship. While most of the press was down on the Hoos, we picked them to win the ACC.

As we have in the previous three previews, we make our picks for ACC awards. We are eight strong now, with Kendall having come back into the fold and Eugene Mulero joining our team as a writer. We rank the teams, pick a Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, Freshman of the Year and three All-ACC teams. StLouHoo presents his annual Offseason Refresh, deep diving into each of the Hoos’ 14 ACC opponents.

As with each year before, we follow the ACC preview with a close look at Virginia’s team. I present my analysis of each of the players we expect to suit up, detailing what they bring to the team and what to expect out of them. There’s some fun in there, too, with video reminiscences of last year. The headline video this year is one of my favorites, Enter the Huff Monster.

The league, the players, all that is left is to look at the games. Previewing the schedule will be difficult this year, as there is no schedule yet. We know the Hoos will play 20 ACC games. We know four non-conference opponents – three of whom are the marquee matchups we’ve craved for years.

We will wrap up this preview as we have the others, with bold predictions and keys to the season.

It promises to be a great season. We hope it will be a great preview, and another great experience for us as writers and you as readers. Jay Huff plays his last season, Sam Hauser plays his one season, Tomas Woldetensae wraps up his too-short UVA career. Kihei Clark returns for the third Year of the Mongoose, this time as one of the best players in the league. Casey Morsell hopes to leave a tough freshman campaign behind and go back to enjoying the game. Kody Stattmann, Francisco Caffaro, Kadin Shedrick and Justin McKoy hope to find roles after understudy seasons. Three new freshmen bring high expectations. It all comes together in a blend of experience, hunger and youth.

Is this the most talented UVA team ever? Never before has Tony Bennett had 6 consensus top 100 high school recruits on his roster. The last time he had five he won the National Championship. Now, those 5 were veterans that year and four of his six this year are freshmen, but the talent is at every position – and those super six don’t even include Kihei Clark!

Experience, youth, talent, star big man, star point guard, and the bedrock foundation of Bennettball – all the ingredients are there for a special year. Today, we tip off our coverage of that year.