I'm one of the most optimistic fans you'll ever talk to. But in the wake (no pun intended) of another devastating home loss to Wake Forest, Virginia football has reached rock bottom in the Mike London era. I'm not going to go in-depth on why we came up short (cough...special teams...), but will instead switch up the topic completely by saying this: only 3 weeks until basketball season!
I know, I know, maybe I'm being overly optimistic yet again. But what other choice does a UVa fan have at this point? The men's basketball team could salvage what has been a brutal start to the 2012-2013 athletic year. While the departure of leading scorer Mike Scott is a huge blow for this team, there are still an abundance of reasons why the Hoos could return to the NCAA tournament, and it starts with a star-studded class of 1st years. Tony Bennett did a tremendous job recruiting a trio of ESPN top 100 recruits, starting with the talented wingman Justin Anderson. At 6 foot 7, Anderson's athleticism is off the charts, and he showed flashes of brilliance in the team's inter-squad scrimmage this past week. If he can maintain consistent play, Anderson will find himself in the starting lineup early in the season. Big man Mike Tobey will take the reigns at center, and will have a huge role in the paint for this undersized team. Top recruit Evan Nolte has a solid perimeter game, and will definitely contribute for a Cavaliers team that is terrific at defense but lacks offensive firepower.
Returning from last year's squad is Akil Mitchell, who will add experience and a post presence to the frontline. Shooting guard Joe Harris perhaps the team's most potent weapon, and looks to build off of a break-out season last year. The major question mark right now is what the team plans to do at point guard with fourth year Jontel Evans out for perhaps the first few games of the season after undergoing foot surgery. But once he returns to 100%, the starting lineup is well-rounded, and a bench consisting of key players like Darion Atkins, Malcolm Brogdon, and others will fill out the rotation.
North Carolina State being atop the pre-season ACC rankings should be an indication as to how wide open this conference is compared to previous years. Virginia is undoubtedly a young team, but there is one staple that the Hoos will never lose: their defense. Add some exciting and explosive young players to the mix, and this team could overcome its status as a middle-of-the-pack squad and elevate itself back into March Madness conversation.
Hey, at least this team has a glimmer of hope. The same can't be said about this year's football team. Sigh. KHALEK GET OFF THE FIELD!
Feel free to weigh in on your thoughts of this year's men's basketball prospects, or express your angst about the football team's struggles. Whatever works.