Tony Bennett and the UVA basketball team are on their way back to Charlottesville after an action-packed week in Amsterdam, Belgium, and Paris. The Hoos concluded their European swing with a 2-3 record (Read more about the background of the trip here), and a unique experience that the NCAA affords to teams once every four years.
Because the official Streaking the Lawn jet was in the shop for repairs this week, we had to rely on the same coverage as the typical Wahoo fan - tweets, video highlights, and French audio feeds. And while it's unwise to read too deeply into a few games played with experimental, first-year heavy lineups in small gyms against unfamiliar competition in a foreign country with different rules, we are going to do so anyways.
But first, let's look at how the trip actually benefitted players, coaches, and fans. Besides the obvious benefits of the all-expense-paid trip to some of Europe's coolest cities, players got a chance to bond with their teammates, many of them new to the program. The team got to play 5 competitive games in addition to 10 freebie practices, during a period when the NCAA typically heavily limits team activities. And Tony Bennett got the chance to evaluate his incoming players, as well as tinker with different lineups.
And the Wahoo faithful finally got its fix of Virginia basketball. Though coverage was limited, extensive highlights were posted by VirginiaSportsTV.com - watching any or all of them and getting a first look at Tobey, Anderson, and Nolte in orange and blue is highly recommended.
The team finished with 2 losses and 3 wins, summarized below. More quick hits, highlights, player stats, quotes, and overanalysis is below the jump.
|Aug. 8||Netherlands B Team||W 89-62||Tobey 18, Anderson 15|
|Aug. 9||Netherlands B Team||L 73-82||Harris 23, Evan 14|
|Aug. 11||Gembo||L 97-102||Mitchell 20, Tobey 19|
|Aug. 13||AMW Team France||L 67-71*||Mitchell, Harris, Tobey 12|
|Aug. 14||AMW Team France||W 82-62||Mitchell 15, Harris 13|
*Cheating may have been involved here! (see below)Trip Notes:
- Don't panic about those high scores! Though these were 40 minute games (four 10-minute quarters), they were played with a 24 second shot clock. We will NEVER again come close to allowing 102 points...or scoring 97 for that matter.
- Mike Tobey may have been the player that showed the most on the trip. Until he finally demonstrated it in a game, Tobey was just a highly-touted unknown. He proved the ability to hit a jump shot when left open and really battled down low. If (and that's a big if) he is comfortable with the defense early, he'll see substantial playing time.
- The monumental point swing between games 1 and 2 demonstrates the importance of mental toughness and focus in basketball. The Hoos came out firing on the first game of their trip against a Netherlands team that didn't have its head in the game and won by 17 points in a laugher. Despite Coach Bennett's warnings about older players taking losses to heart, the effort gap seemed to have reversed just 24 hours later in a 9 point loss that sounds closer than it was. Osaikhwuwuomwam had a big game for the Netherlands. (Really! Sorry, couldn't help myself).
- With the loss of Mike Scott, Akil Mitchell is a player the Hoos really need to come up big to have a successful 2012-2013. In Europe he led the team in scoring in 3 out of 5 games and looked as quick and agile as ever. If he can translate that ability into success against skilled ACC big men, look out!
- Opponents' strengths are difficult to gauge here. Is a close loss to "Gembo" good or bad? My best guess is that each team was better than the previous. Gembo won the Belgium Second Division championship. And AMW did take two games from the Kansas Jayhawks just days ago.
- Officiating was apparently a significant issue - just check the box score for game 4! France's "Phantom Basket" picked up 2 points when the French official score keeper slipped the French team an extra bucket in the third quarter. The Hoos had the ball down 2 late in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie or win. You do the math! Bennett was unhappy, as he told VirginiaSports.com:
"I understand when you come here, you're going to get some questionable officiating -- I can handle that," said Bennett. "But what I don't appreciate is when they take two points away from us. Two points in a game like that, that changes the whole game, and that's frustrating, because we were there for the win, and that's just not the way you do it. I don't care if you're international or in the States, you gotta keep the right score. But it's a mistake, it was done, and I just want our guys to understand what the blueprint is for us to play competitive basketball."
"I think this was probably the most physical of all the games that we've played, and I thought our guys embraced that physicality more," said Bennett. "The officials, to be polite, were letting guys basically maul each other out there. You just had to play, and you had to be strong with the ball, and you knew when shots went up there was going to be a lot of contact
- The team's "European Trip Blog" is pretty entertaining. The Hoos may have played 5 games in 7 days, but they had plenty of time for sightseeing and other shenanigans.
- Look out for Paul Jesperson; he may have been relegated to the end of the bench last season, but looked more like a crafty veteran in Europe.
- The games against AMW France were broadcast online, first in French, then in what the commentators called "Frenchglish." Entertaining guys, though I am looking forward to seeing us in HD, rather than the grainy frame-per-second coverage on Justin.TV.