Tony Bennett held a teleconference for the final time this season to reflect on the 2011-2012 campaign. Whitey Reid of the Daily Progress listened in and reported what Coach had to say. Here are some of Bennett's more telling quotes, as well as some thoughts and a bit of future speculation:
"I think it just slowly eroded and some teams took advantage of us. We didn't have the same kind of defensive productivity or just tenacity as we did..."
Truth. The last two games of the year, against NC State and Florida, ranked the third-worst and worst defensive games of the season, respectively, in terms of points per possession. Yes, Florida is one of the best offensive teams in the country, but Bennett's elite defense seemed out of gas, unable to keep focus for all 40 minutes.
Why does Bennett think this happened? First, we lost a couple solid defensive players. Bennett emphasized Assane's injury, saying, " I think when we lost Asssane, it took a step down, I really do," and acknowledged the losses of Malcolm Brogdon and one of Joe Harris's limbs.
Another aspect that probably isn't the first to pop into fans' minds is how the team practiced. Suddenly, the first unit couldn't practice defending the second unit in 5-on-5 scrimmages; instead, they saw an assortment of walk-ons and coaches.
"We practiced hard, we had to efficient, but we didn't have the competition[...] our walk-ons gave everything and God bless coach Williford, [...]but to not be able to go against the playmaking ability and sharpness on a daily basis-I think that might have something to do with it as far as not being as sharp defensively..."
Makes sense - how can one be the best without having the ability to practice against the best?
The new recruits:
Next year, Justin Anderson, Mike Tobey, Evan Nolte, and Teven Jones will see the court for the first time. Bennett explains why trying to project a starting lineup now is a pointless exercise:"They're going to have to contribute. I don't know if every one of them will, but certainly some of them will be called upon. [...] I expect them to come in ready to compete for playing time and to help this team and to be great teammates, but really to provide some needed depth and quality play. That's what we're expecting. And think that these guys-some of them have the capabilities to do that. How soon? Hard to say..."
This idea really comes back to the crapshoot that is recruiting. Fans, with the accomplice of internet recruiting services, love to make early projections about how high schoolers will contribute at the next level. However, until the coaches could see players competing against more elite competition, meshing with their teammates, and developing over time, there is still a wide unknown area. Bennett will be taking the team on a summer European trip, which he hopes will get the young team an early jump.
Here's my favorite part of the teleconference:
"I expect quality. I expect them to be sound, smart and tough. [...] I think those guys possess those attributes."
UVA's poor SOS this season:
"It's OK to have two or three of those, but we might have had five..and some were really in the [300s]. When you have that, those can really pull you down."
Thank you! Please, let's get rid of the RPI-killers! The fact that Bennett acknowledges a lack of success in this area and hopes to fix it is comforting.
Additions to next year's roster?
UVA started the 2011-2012 season with 11 scholarship players. While 4 are incoming (including Teven Jones, who is technically on scholarship this semester), the 2 transfers and 3 graduates leave us with 10 players for next year. Teams are allowed up to 13 scholarships. Do the math - there's room for more!
Bennett: "There's hopefully be going to be an offseason acquisition or two that will be important here coming up"
After this season's depth disaster, it's not a surprise that Tony wants to fill out the roster. There are a couple ways to go here. Most likely, he is thinking about a transfer, whether from another NCAA school or a JUCO program. We keep losing players to transfer, and apparently these are common....but athletes have to go somewhere, don't they? It's about time we are on the receiving end! These guys woud have to sit out for a year, but could still practice with the team. Additionally, it's not too late to pick up at 2012 commit, though he'd have to understand that he would be coming into a "project" or supporting role (*cough* Billy Baron *cough*).
Jontel Evans has one year left at UVA; while Teven Jones is coming in, depth at point guard is badly needed. I'll guess that Bennett finds an experienced one somewhere in the world willing to come to Virginia.
"[...]The surgery definitely was successful...He's kind of in the wait-and-see mode...[H]e'll have to keep working on doing things to give himself the best possible outcome with the surgery-as far as with his rehab and strengthening the right areas, getting himself aligned."
Basically, the short-term looks fine. Malcolm Brogdon will heal, rehab, and be ready to continue his offseason regimen. The interesting part is the future, where Brogdon may have to make some posture changes to work around his "flat feet" problem.
No further comment needed:
"In light of all things, I think we're in a good spot. That's why I was brought here-to make some improvements and not just the wins and losses, but in a lot of areas and I think we're tracking in the right direction and my hope is the best is yet to come over the next few years and I'm excited about that."