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. Nobody is down on the Hoos this year.
Election. Racism. Climate change. Pandemic. Basketball seems so unimportant in the midst of all this chaos. Basketball seems so important for those of us trying to navigate the uncertainty and find a future amidst what appears to be the end of life as we’ve known it. What we need to get through it is Unity. This need for a way to find unity is what makes Virginia Basketball so important to me today.
For the fourth straight year, we gathered our Panel of Experts and had them vote on ten players for the All-ACC team, and on the individual awards for Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, and Coach of the Year.
HOOS Place first made preseason power rankings three years ago for the 2017-18 season. The only year we did not get the first place team right was the only year we did not pick Virginia: last season. We made the same mistake the ACC media makes every. single. year. We chose Duke. Florida State won it. What did we do this year?
We start our ACC Team Previews with #15 in the HOOS Place Power Rankings, Wake Forest. It’s got to be pretty bad for Danny Manning to have been fired in the middle of the pandemic, Wake Forest so ready to ditch him that they’d eat an 8-figure buyout despite every athletic department in D-1 being badly in the red.
#14 Boston College finished the 2019-20 season with a respectable (for them) 7-13 record in the ACC, but overall it was a dismal season, finishing towards the bottom of the ACC in both offensive and defensive metrics and struggling in the OOC as well to finish six games below .500 for the season. Is more mediocrity in store this year?
For the third straight season, the Irish had a disappointing season last year, finishing .500 and would have been on the wrong side of the Bubble on selection Sunday. TJ Gibbs and John Mooney were an all-ACC level inside-out duo and now have graduated, leaving a giant question mark as to who can carry the team this year.
The Mike Young era at Virginia Tech started well enough, upsetting Michigan State in Maui and racing out to a 4-2 ACC start before the Hokies lost 12 of their last 15. But a lot of young talent returns this year, so can Virginia Tech surprise the league yet again with its trademark 4-guard approach?
The long slow rebuild from the rock-bottom of the Kevin Stallings era continues at Pittsburgh. The 2019-20 season was another incremental step forward for Jeff Capel’s club. They’ll be looking for another measurable step forward this year with a lot of the roster returning.
The Markell Johnson era is over in Raleigh, as one of the most productive pass-first PGs in recent ACC memory graduates. The Wolfpack welcome a startling eight new faces to their eligible roster this season, and will look to see if this is the year Keatts can get them back to a winning league record after back-to-back .500 ACC seasons.
Clemson spent another year as a tough ACC middleweight last year, NIT quality but unable to get over the hump and their 2018 breakthrough feeling far in the rearview mirror. Once again, the Tigers will play tough defense but will they have the size and the shooting to get north of .500 in the deep league?
In a sanctions-marred season, barred from both ACC and NCAA postseason eligibility, the Yellow Jackets sneakily finished fifth in the league last year at 11-9 behind a strong defense and a breakout season by guard Michael Devoe. They’re a trendy pick to finish as a top-tier party crasher this year, what will Pastner need to do to achieve it?
Chris Mack enters his third year in the ACC with his first roster that’s predominantly his players, though that means he’s got a full-fledged youth movement on his hand. The roster features only three upperclassmen, and two of those are grad transfers from smaller programs. Mack’s recruiting has been strong since he arrived; is this the season his hotshot recruits break out?
Jim Boeheim is working overtime for a late career swan song. The soon-to-be 76-year-old’s tenure in the ACC has not lived up to its billing, falling short of the dance 4 of the last 7 seasons, and landing no better than an 8-seed the years they made it. But with four starters back and a fresh talent influx, the Orange have some high expectations this year.
Sharps have pinned Miami as a team with a great shot to crash the top of the ACC this year. It hasn’t been that long since Larranaga’s ‘Canes were competing for ACC titles and making solid runs into the NCAA Tournament. The last couple seasons, though, have seen lethargy take hold in Coral Gables. With four seniors on this year’s roster, does Miami get back to winning?
Last year was a generationally-disappointing season in Chapel Hill, not just struggling but finishing tied-for-last in the league. Injuries can be blamed to some degree, other players disappointed as well. The Tar Heels are looking at a big, talented freshmen class to take over the back court duties; will it be enough to let a talented front court shine and let the Heels bounce back?
Last year was FSU’s year. It broke my heart, honestly, for the Seminoles to see their shot at coach Hamilton’s first Final Four dashed by the NCAA Tournament cancellation. Some key pieces moved on to graduation and the pros, but Florida State has proven adept in recent years at restocking with quality depth. Will this year be another strong season in Tallahassee?
Duke’s annual roster reshuffling bids farewell to the best pure PG they’ve had in years in Tre Jones, the headliner of six rotation players to either graduate, turn pro, or transfer. They’re backfilled by seven new faces, but there’s reason to think this year’s youth movement may struggle a bit more than usual.
We transition from looking at the ACC competition in depth over to looking at our beloved Virginia Cavaliers in even greater depth with a special feature on the Hoos’ new Player of the Year candidate and first-team preseason All-ACC member Sam Hauser by the newest member of the HOOS Place team, Eugene Mulero.
Perhaps the most disappointing effect of the NCAA having to cancel the tournaments due to Covid was that Jay Huff did not get the chance to continue his “next step” in the post-season. Huff had stepped into a bigger role as a junior, especially in the last eight games of the season, and was poised to take center stage as the Hoos defended their NCAA title. It was not to be. Now we all hope he will get the chance to lead his team in that title defense.
When UVA’s first national championship in men’s basketball led to an unprecedented talent drain, Tony Bennett was left with gaping holes to fill, and he turned to an unprecedented source to fill one: junior college transfer. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so Tony turned to Tomas Woldetensae, one of the best shooters in the junior college ranks.
Never has a transfer debuted at Virginia to so much fanfare. All-American. ACC Player of the Year. First-team All-ACC. Sam has been picked for all of those by prominent college basketball media figures. We break down why Sam Hauser is worthy of all the hype.
Kihei Clark is a baller. When you start to think about what he brings to the team, you realize that he is just a well-rounded basketball player. He brings the skills; He brings the hustle; He brings the intangibles; He brings the big moments that change history – The Play was only the most prominent, greatest of a succession of big moments that transcend his statistics.
Virginia went into this summer eyeing up a doozy of an early-season tournament: The Wooden Classic in Anaheim, CA. The UCLA-organized event (named after the legendary Bruins’ coach John Wooden) featured UVA along with Georgetown, UCLA, and Kansas. Both UCLA and Kansas projected as highly-ranked teams, so the event had
In two years, Kody Stattmann has yet to show the deadly three-point shot he had in Australia. Is this the year? If not, he will havw a huge challenge in keeping the role he carved out for himself last season thanks to good defense.
Michigan State. Say the words to Tony Bennett or a Virginia fan of Tony’s generation or older, and you can expect to see a visceral reaction cross their face. Only bad memories come from playing Michigan State. Michigan State has always stood in Bennett’s way. Virginia has never beaten Michigan State. We had them. Once. The only game that ended with Virginia ahead of Michigan State didn’t count and won’t appear in any record books.
Something happened to Trey Murphy down in Texas. He arrived at Rice University in summer 2018 as a 6-4, 165-pound shooting guard with a good shot and a suspect handle. Two years later, he was transferring to the University of Virginia as a 6-9, 205-pound combo forward with realistic NBA aspirations. Not many players grow five inches in college, but when they do, it changes their fortunes dramatically.
In software, version 2.0 of a program is not a copy of version 1.0; it is not identical. Version 2.0 is the next generation – an improvement. It is the program with new features, but it is still the same basic program designed to perform the same functions. Calling Francisco Caffaro “Jack Salt 2.0” is not to say that his game is the same as jack’s. It is to say that he fills the same role on the team, the same function, but has some additional skills.
Casey Morsell probably never foresaw his freshman year of college playing out this way. Nothing in his high school or AAU career could have prepared him for it. That he handled it with the grace and positivity with which he did bodes well for his future. Believe you me, Casey Morsell is way too talented and way too driven for it all to end up this way.
Justin McKoy is a big, talented, energetic, conscientious, versatile player with a lot of growth potential in his game. This is a big year for him to make a move and establish himself in the rotation. If he can start to show what he did in high level competition before college, he will surprise a lot of people.
When the Wahoos and Wildcats face off on the big stage at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 19, you can argue we will witness the best two current college basketball programs battling for early-season supremacy.
As expected, Kadin Shedrick joined the long line of Virginia big men who redshirted their first year. He came to Virginia as a 6-11, 200-pound late bloomer and spent his year under the tutelage of Mike Curtis. Now he’s listed at 216 pounds – is he ready for the cage matches that are the ACC paint?
What do Devon Hall, Mamadi Diakite and Carson McCorkle have in common? All of them were ranked in the top 35 of their high school classes until they reclassified, then entered college not in any top 100 lists and virtually unheralded. Hall is now in the NBA and Diakite is
True freshman Reece Beekman represents a milestone of sorts for Tony Bennett: he is the first prototypical lead guard Bennett has targeted out of the gate and actually landed. After years and years and chasing dozens of ball-dominant floor generals without success, Tony Bennett finally got his man.
Jabri Abdur-Rahim watched Virginia beat Auburn and Texas Tech and win the most recent national championship. It made an impression. Now the #36 player in the 2020 RSCI list is trying to win a spot in Tony Bennett’s lineup on his way to the NBA. Will he succeed?
The start of reigning national champion Virginia’s 2020-21 season features several non-conference matchups against Mid-majors with a few high-profile contests against powerhouses in the mix. For Virginia’s men’s basketball squad, the early schedule promises just the right amount of resistance to start the season.
It’s Bold Predictions time, and we start with our craziest prognostications for the Hoos!
We all predicted greatness for the Hoos, but what do we see for the rest of the ACC? Who flops? Who surprises? What weird things are in store? Gaze into my crystal ball….
We’ve analyzed the opposition and the players, made our bold predictions, and now it’s time to give our keys to success for Virginia Basketball this season.
The season is upon us. The Hoos are in Bubbleville, Connecticut for their first two games. We’ve looked at the opposition and the players, made our predictions and shared our keys. Some of us have even subscribed to FloSports. Now we all bid aloha to this Preview, as we bid aloha to the season.