Overall Rank: #57
Conference Rank: #7 ACC
Virginia Team Page
2010-11: 16-15, 7-9
2010-11 postseason: none
Coach: Tony Bennett (31-31 at Virginia, 100-64 overall)
The third year for a new coaching staff, especially one with such a drastic change of style that Tony Bennett brought to Virginia, usually garners higher expectations. The influx of talent and the slow rebuilding that Coach Bennett has done should turn into a great season for the Cavaliers. Many things need to go right, but the most important may be the play of Jontel Evans. The junior point guard did a decent job last season, averaging 3.5 assists per game, but there is certainly room for improvement. He is not much of a scorer, but he should be able to emerge as a leader on the floor now that he is an upperclassman. That leadership will be very important as Coach Bennett needs somebody who can be a coach on the floor and Evans has to be that guy.
There are a couple losses for the Cavs. Mustapha Farrakhan was second on the team in scoring with 13.5 points per game and was a solid all-around scorer. Those numbers are replaceable though. So are Will Sherrill’s 4.3 points and 2.8 rebounds. Billy Baron and Will Regan are also gone after seeing limited playing time last season.
Shooting guard Malcolm Brogdon is the star of the incoming freshmen. There is a little room in the backcourt for playing time, so he should be able to work his way into the regular rotation. Small forward Paul Jesperson could help out in certain situations when Virginia needs to play a little bigger, but his best days are still ahead of him. Darion Atkins, a 6-8 power forward, has the luxury of working behind some talented big men for a little while. The big name newcomer is redshirt freshman James Johnson. At 6-9 and 238 pounds, Johnson is a big power forward who is mature well beyond his years. While most big men need to spend some time developing an offensive game, Johnson already has it. He can play with his back to the basket or facing the basket. He is not a great shooter by any means, but he can at least step out and hit the mid-range jumper with relative consistency. Johnson will battle for a starting job right away despite the talent already there. Either way, he will play plenty of minutes at the four and five spot.
Who to Watch:
The frontcourt was a huge liability last season after Johnson redshirted and Mike Scott went down with an injury. Now both are on the team and suddenly the frontcourt has a ton of depth. Scott, assuming he can get past his injuries, is a great interior scorer who was averaging a double-double last season through ten games before being lost for the year. He is the big man that the offense will run through. Assane Sene started at center last season and probably will again this year, but his minutes are not safe. He is not much of a scorer, but he is a fine rebounder and a solid shot blocker. With Scott doing the scoring, that is all Virginia needs Sene to do. However, with Johnson and sophomore Akil Mitchell ready to explode onto the scene, Scott and Sene will not have to do everything all the time. Mitchell averaged 15.1 minutes per game as a freshman last season and took advantage of the playing time awarded to him after the injury to Scott. Mitchell is not a scorer, but he is a tough, hard-working power forward who can do the dirty work. His scoring will develop with time, but for now he is another talented body to throw in the mix of what is suddenly a pretty darn good frontcourt.
The group on the perimeter has plenty of fine players as well. K.T. Harrell is a good shooter and can be a great scorer. His freshman campaign saw him be quite inconsistent, but he did average 8.0 points per game and he has a ton of potential. Joe Harris was the more surprising wing during his freshman campaign. Most expected Harrell to emerge as the team’s big-time scorer of the future, but Harris stole the show. He knocked down 2.1 three-pointers per game and averaged 10.4 points and used his 6-6 frame to grab 4.4 rebounds per contest. Harris needs to use his size to attack the basket a little more often, but with a year of experience and the departure of Farrakhan, there is little reason to think he will not be able to develop into Virginia’s versatile go-to-scorer. Sammy Zeglinski was a starter a couple years ago and pretty much the Cavs best scoring option on the perimeter. That changed last season when he started just 11 games. That just goes to show the level of talent that Coach Bennett is bringing into this program. Zeglinski is better suited as a shooter off of the bench, which is what he did most of last year and will likely do during his senior season as well. There are some questions at the point guard spot and the big men are not exactly superstars yet, and those who are could get hurt at any moment if history has taught us anything. However, this is a very talented team that has the size, strength, system and talent to be a force in the ACC. If they want to be NCAA Tournament material, everybody has to stay healthy, the young frontcourt needs to live up to the hype and Evans has to be a leader on the floor.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Jontel Evans, Junior, Guard, 5.7 points per game
K.T. Harrell, Sophomore, Guard, 8.0 points per game
Joe Harris, Sophomore, Guard, 10.4 points per game
Mike Scott, Senior, Forward, 15.9 points per game
Assane Sene, Senior, Center, 5.1 points per game
Madness 2011 Men's Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#94 Malcolm Brogdon
#133 Paul Jesperson
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