Wednesday, June 30, 2010

ACC basketball preview: Virginia


2009-10 record: 15-16 overall, 5-11 ACC (ninth)

Postseason: None

Projected starting lineup: G Jontel Evans, G Sammy Zeglinski, F K.T. Harrell, F Mike Scott, F James Johnson


• Tony Bennett can flat-out coach

Liked Tony Bennett before his first season at Virginia, liked him when he started 5-2 and even liked him when he finished 0-9. Dude can coach and in the ACC, that puts you in front of two-thirds of your peers.

Bennett had some success early, notably at N.C. State and UNC's expense, and then struggled after Feb. 3. In the ACC tournament, you saw Bennett's real value, getting a team, minus its best player, to win one game and nearly another, and the second games was against the national champions.

Now that he's thinned the weeds from the roster, Bennett's on the brink of making Virginia basketball relevant again.

• Recruiting bonus

UNC, Duke and N.C. State all landed higher-profile players but of the six that Bennett signed, two figure to start — K.T. Harrell and James Johnson — and the others all fit Bennett's pragmatic, hard-nosed style.


• Youth

With Sylven Landesberg, the team's leading scorer (17.3 ppg), failing out of school, Jeff Jones and Tristan Spurlock transferring, the Cavaliers are going to need their freshmen to play early and play well.

Senior forward Mike Scott and junior guard Sammy Zeglinski will provide veteran leadership but you get the sense from Bennett that last year was an audition and he found a bunch of "Solid Gold" dancers but no stars.

He will add the leading roles through recruiting and typically an overhaul of program takes more than two years.

• Talent

Even if Johnson and Harrell are good, there's just not a lot behind them. A roster with Mustapha Farrakhan, Will Sherrill and Assane Sene doesn't exactly scream "Final Four."

Bottom line

Be patient, UVa fans (and I know you have been), because there's going to be a payoff in Bennett but it's going to take some time.

This class was a great start and he'll mine more talent but in the interim, there's going to be a learning curve and it figures to bend at about five or six ACC wins.

Returning players
F Mike Scott Sr. 12.0 7.2 1.2
G Sammy Zeglinski Jr. 8.9 3.8 2.6
G Mustapha Farrakhan Sr. 6.5 1.7 2.0
F Will Sherrill Sr. 3.0 3.0 0.5
G Jontel Evans Soph. 2.4 1.5 1.9
F Assane Sene Jr. 1.6 3.6 0.2
G Sylven Landesberg (NBA) 17.3 4.9 2.9
G Jeff Jones (transfer) 7.3 1.3 0.4
F Jerome Meyinsse 6.5 4.1 0.4
G Calvin Baker 3.0 1.2 1.9
F Tristan Spurlock (transfer) 2.4 0.8 0.1
G K.T. Harrell Fr. 6-3 170 36
F James Johnson Fr. 6-8 210 37
G Billy Baron Fr. 6-1 185
F Akil Mitchell Fr. 6-7 200
G Joe Harris Fr. 6-5 200
F Will Regan Fr. 6-8 215

Recruiting analysis by Dave Telep,

Harrell: "UVA must replace its wing scoring and Harrell will get his chance to earn the shots Landesberg left behind. A late bloomer, he was a priority SEC recruit that got away."

Johnson: "We're higher on him than most and its because of his work ethic, developing frame, athleticism and scoring tools. He's an early starter and reports out of Charlottesville are that he's ready to impact as a freshman which is in line with our evaluation."

Baron: "When Tony Bennett looks in the mirror he sees a version of Billy Baron. An overachieving gym rat, Baron is the son of a coach, brother of a shooter and combo guard."

Harris: "Bennett recruited him to be a sniper and student. He's equipped to be both and he could be UVA's designated zone buster."

Regan: "He's blue collar all the way. The cerebral insider knows the value of hardwork in the paint and he's a max effort role player for the Cavs."

Mitchell: "He's the guy who's going to have to work the hardest to crack the rotation. Mitchell has a nice touch to mid-range. To get freshman PT he'll have to find a niche and that means getting stronger from the perimeter and in the weight room."

-- J.P. Giglio