Record: 16-15 (7-9 ACC). T-7th ACC. Loss in ACC Tournament vs. Miami
MVP: Mustapha Farrakhan.
Tough choice here between Mu and freshman Joe Harris. Harris was clearly the most promising player on the floor at all times and probably the most confidence-inspiring too. He shot a torrid 42% from behind the arc (5th in the ACC) and averaged 10.4 ppg. Because he also quickly grasped his role on defense, he played often and gained his coach's and fans' trust; and he did so playing out of position at the 4 for most the year. Wouldn't be surprised if he won a couple future prestigious "Streaking the Lawn" MVP Awards.
While Harris shone, Farrakhan was most valuable as a senior leader. After three years plagued by streakiness and inconsistency, Mu learned and embraced his role. Clearly buying into Bennett's system, Farrakhan was an excellent man-to-man defender. Additionally, he was the rock of the offense, taking on Sylven Landesberg's old "go-to-guy" role. Whether he was scoring 31 points on 7-8 three-point shooting against Howard or knocking down game-sealing free throws against Virginia Tech, that role was never in doubt. Most of all, his season is just more evidence of the major strides college athletes make in just a few short years (as if you needed any more reason to be pumped for the maturation of the talented freshmen)
Overview: Coming into the 2010-2011 season, there was ample reason for optimism: a highly touted 6-man freshman class was entering the program, signaling the real changing of the guard in the Virginia basketball program. However, the loss of Sylven Landesberg, who left for greener pastures in the NBA but ultimately decided to play in Haifa, Israel instead, left the team without its star player. As expected, the significant playing time earned by first-years led to a bit of a roller coaster season. After Mike Scott started the season looking like a world-beater, his injury was probably the year's pivotal moment and only exacerbated the ride. Overall though, it was a season marked by great strides. Harris, KT Harrell, and Akil Mitchell showed they will lead the team for years to come. Assane Sene learned to dunk, catch a basketball, and play defense...and that's all it took for him to be the ACC's most improved player. Tony Bennett continues to be a genius.
While there were moments when the team seemed hopeless along with moments when I was sure they would never lose again, it is easier now to look back and summarize the year. It was a successful step 1 of the Bennett building process in which the team competed hard, improved on weaknesses, and finished the year in a good place.
I'll refresh your memory of some of the highlights and lowpoints of the year:
Season Highlight(s): Going to go with UVA's season sweep of rival Virginia Tech. Yes, I like beating up on the Hokies, seeing coach Seth Greenberg make agitated faces, and leaving JPJ happy; but beyond that, these wins marked the two most successful stretches of the season. The Hoos arrived at the barn that is Cassel Colosseum fresh off a huge win at a ranked Minnesota team in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge. When a bonehead Jeff Allen clear path foul sealed the 57-54 win, led by Mike Scott's double-double, it no longer seemed like a fluke. UVA earned ESPN's "Team of the Week" honor and proved they could win in tough road environments.
Our friends from Blacksburg arrived in Charlottesville in February to face a different UVA team in a bit of a rut. However, the result was the same, as Joe Harris's 15 points and 7 boards led a 61-54 win. The first half featured some of the loudest moments in my memory at JPJ (either the highlights don't really do it justice, or I yelled myself into delirium). The team then went on to win 4 of its last 5 games, including a win against NC St on Senior Night and a season-ending 74-60 romp over Maryland in a game that would be Gary Williams's last at home.
Season Lowpoint(s): Obviously the season ending ACC tournament collapse against Miami. This is a game I refuse to say another word about (refresh your memory here if you are a masochist)....but having the game fresh in the team's mind must serve as some added motivation in the offseason.
I am also going to mention Mike Scott's injury. After a promising start, the season was forced into turmoil. In the immediate aftermath of his surgery, the Hoos hit a rough patch; they required a last second tip-in by Assane Sene to beat Norfolk State at home, lost to Seattle at JPJ, and scored just 15 first-half points in a miserable defeat against Iowa State. While the team would recover, there are some interesting "what-ifs" to be considered if Scott was at full strength all year.
Future Outlook: Look out, ACC.
Yes, the team loses Mustapha Farrakhan and Will Sherrill (along with transfers Billy Baron and Will Regan). Mu and Will the Thrill had solid seasons and were great Hoos...but I wouldn't call them irreplaceable. Harris, KT Harrell, Sammy Zeglinski, and incoming first-year Malcolm Brogdon will probably all combine to take Mu's minutes admirably, and Mitchell and James Johnson will fill in time at Will's 4 spot. With all the returning experience, UVA would be in decent shape even without a returning 5th-year beast.
Luckily, the Hoos do have one of those returning 5th-year beasts. Mike Scott had a fantastic start to last season, and should be a first-team ACC quality player next year. He spent his time off taking mental notes on his opponents and will be a man on a mission next year. This guy is gunning for a spot in the NCAAs, and it will be there for the taking.
A spot in the tournament is a decent expectation for the season. Sure, a weak schedule, potential for injuries, and the whims of the selection committees are all variables that could hinder us; but the pieces are in place for a fun season, a finish among the top tier or the ACC, and a spot in (and maybe even a run in) the tournament.
What are everyone's thoughts on the best and worst moments of the seasons and early ideas on what we should be expecting from the team this year?