After Virginia's 61-52 win over UNC on Sunday night, its first win over the Tar Heels in five tries at JPJ Arena, it's easy to get excited over the prospects of this 2013 ACC season. With Jontel Evans' triumphant return, Akil Mitchell's dominance on the boards, and Justin Anderson's improving defensive game -- seriously, did you see that block on Dexter Strickland? -- UVA certainly appears to be hitting its stride as conference play kicks off. Despite all of this, some perspective needs to be taken on the young season, as there are a number of areas in which the Hoos can improve upon heading into these pivotal games.
First, let it be noted that Virginia's next two games are on the road, at Wake Forest and then at Clemson. Mind you, these two teams rank toward the bottom of the ACC, but it's still worth observing that Virginia has only played two true road games all season. Now, one of those was perhaps their most impressive win of the season, beating Wisconsin in Madison in the ACC-B1G Challenge. However, this game was back in November, and their other road game was the first game of the year, a loss to George Mason. I have no doubt in my mind that this UVA team can overcome the perils of hostile road environments, but the fact that they haven't traveled much all season should worry some fans.
During Sunday's game broadcast, ESPNU announcers joked that UVA is glad not to have to play against CAA teams for the rest of the year, a reference to their disappointing losses to George Mason, Delaware, and Old Dominion. Again, disrespect Wake Forest all you want, but it appears that at times this season, the Hoos have played down to their level of competition and have surrendered some key losses early in this season that will ultimately hurt their RPI come tournament time. All I'm saying is that it wouldn't hurt Virginia to prep just as intensely as it did for bigger name schools like Wisconsin, Tennessee, and most recently UNC. Another poor loss would be detrimental to this team.
And now, I make the case for more minutes for freshmen Evan Nolte and Justin Anderson. Look, I love Paul Jesperson as much as the next guy, and I must admit he is shooting an impressive clip from three-point land this season. But on the wing, I feel as though Nolte is a much bigger threat to opposing defenses from what I've seen in early games this season. Meanwhile, Anderson has played with the passion and energy that many UVA fans were excited to see since the Hoos snagged the highly-touted recruit. His defense has been exceptional, with a number of big-time blocks and hustle plays that make you drop your jaw in disbelief. The two freshmen are bound to get more minutes as the season progresses, and they just might be the X-factors throughout the remainder of the year. It'll be interesting to see how the playing time shakes out on Wednesday night when they face Wake Forest.
What else stands out to you following the big win over UNC? What areas of improvement should the Hoos focus on to maintain their recent success?