Friday, January 05, 2007

What We've Learned: Virginia

This was supposed to be a break through season for the Wahoos and their "best backcourt in college basketball" of Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds. Singletary has been playing excellent basketball of late but he and Reynolds are far from the best guard duo in college basketball. As a team Virginia has disappointed so far with embarrassing losses to Appalachian State and Utah. Not that Utah or Appalachian State are horrible teams but when you lose by 24 and 11 points respectively to sub-100 RPI squads it isn't a sign that you are destined for great things. Coach Dave Leitao is building a solid program with the toughness and discipline the Cavs lacked under Pete Gillen but right now he doesn't have the players to challenge the upper tier in the ACC.

It does appear that the Cavs can't challenge much of anyone outside their shiny new John Paul Jones arena. Their only win in games outside Charlottesville came against a division II team. This is a continuation of an abysmal road record, since 2004 the Wahoo's have gone 4-21 in road games. Lucky for Virginia their ACC road schedule isn't brutal with games against Wake Forest, NC State and Miami which should be winnable for teams with Virginia's talent. Based on past history I'm not convinced that Virginia can raise its play enough to win all those games but the schedule does work in their favor this season. Virginia was lucky to get a young Arizona club to start the season and Gonzaga when they clearly had run out of gas. The Arizona win will be a major chip come bubble time but the Gonzaga win will look less impressive as their RPI declines during conference play. Virginia's struggles at home with a terrible NC State team don't inspire much confidence in their abilities either.

While Singletary and Reynolds are both talented they are very streaky shooters and not all that reliable. Both are prone to the occasional 4-12FGA stinker and neither is much more than an adequate defender, but if they get on a hot shooting night they can blow a team away as they did Gonzaga a few nights ago. Singletary is a great player but as a point guard he doesn't really make those around him better. He gets too infatuated with his own dribbling from time to time and forces shots when his team is struggling. With their weak post game Virginia is not much more than a drive-and-kick jump shooting offense, which means that when they are not hitting their shots they can't beat any decent opponent. If Leitao can squeeze just a little more out of forwards Jason Cain and Adrian Joseph then Virginia might be able to sneak into the NCAAs. The losses to Utah and Appalachian State have really put his team in a bad position and probably require them to go 9-7 or better in ACC play. They might be able to do that with their favorable schedule.

Key wins: Arizona, Gonzaga

Bad losses: Utah, Appalachian State


Prediction 8-8 6th place

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