I'm not ready to anoint Tony Bennett as the second coming or anything like that quite just yet, but I think Saturday's game against NC State allowed all of Wahoo Nation to breathe a sigh of relief, as Bennett and the Cavaliers showed that Virginia can indeed be competitive in the ACC. While Bennett and the gang wanted to celebrate their first ACC win, and the only ACC road win of the weekend, the celebration was short-lived.
"We're certainly going to have to be prepared for Georgia Tech," Bennett said. "On the bus [on the way back from NC State], we didn't get to enjoy it too long because we were watching Georgia Tech play Duke. That certainly ended any enjoyment."
Indeed, Georgia Tech went on to upset No. 5 Duke on Saturday, and are currently ranked No. 18 in the nation. GT is 12-3 overall, 1-1 in the ACC, and off to its best start since the 2003-04 season. The Duke win prevented a fourth straight 0-2 start in ACC play and was the Yellow Jackets’ first win over a top five team in the Associated Press poll since 2005. The Yellow Jackets are 2-1 on opponents’ home courts this season, and this is their first ACC road game of the year.
"You have be mindful about [Georgia Tech's] prowess on the glass and interior attack," Bennett commented. As such, don't be expecting another 4-guard lineup like you saw Virginia deploy partway through the NC State game.
Still though, Coach Bennett is happy with the arsenal of talent he has at his disposal.
For example, Jeff Jones has played 223 minutes this season, but has only picked up 2 personal fouls to date. "He never uses his hands," Bennett said. "He only uses his feet. Hopefully it's not because he's getting beat."
And of course, there's the reigning ACC Rookie of the Year in Sylven Landesberg.
"You wouldn't say he's the quickest player in the league," Bennett said. "But he has a knack, and you don't know, but the next thing you know he's either drawing a foul or in the paint. ...he's a better passer than people realize. When I first saw him, I thought, how does he get to the lane so much? He has good hesitation moves."
"I think he's a good midrange shooter - that's certainly his strength. He's put in a lot of reps in the off season."
Looking ahead, Bennett plans on focusing at least part of this week on the team's rebound ability.
"If we don't "gang rebound" [against Georgia Tech], if our guards don't come back and aren't part of the rebound team, it will be extremely difficult. [Our] perimeters have to come back and rebound because [our] big kids are going to have their hands full."
Virginia won the only meeting between the two teams last season, 88-84 in overtime. While Georgia Tech leads the series 38-30, they are 11-17 when on the road at Virginia. Tip-off is Wednesday, January 13 at 7:00 p.m.