OK, let's do an exercise. I am going to say two words, and you are going to react.
Now take a deep breath, count to ten, and slowly exhale. Well done.
Everything will be alright. This is your pep talk. Your dose of optimism. I am here to talk you down off that ledge.
Before we get started, you, as Virginia fans, have to realize that football season is over. They cannot hurt you anymore. Now let that hurt go, and do not let it affect your opinion on this basketball team. Joe Harris and Tony Bennett do not owe you anything because football season was...umm...less than optimal.
This sentiment counts doubly so if you are also a Redskins fan.
The basketball team is 9-4. Get a grip. Virginia sits one game worse than where they were last season heading into ACC play, but two of those three losses were to ODU and Delaware. This year, all four losses are to teams with an RPI under 80. Sure, I agree that this team is not living up to the potential all UVA fans know exist, but if you are honest, you know that bar was set incredibly high without ever seeing this team play a game together.
Virginia fans have had a rough go. I get it. You do not have the best of luck. It always seems that Virginia gets everyone on their career day, no matter what sport. Tell me your reaction to Tennessee's Antonio Barton hitting that circus shot three to end the half was not, "Of course he did. Of course." That was definitely my reaction, because why would he not hit that shot?
What everyone needs to keep in mind is that this season is far from over, and it is sad to see fans giving up on this team before they even have a chance to mature. The amount of vitriolic comments being spewed on message boards and Twitter is truly disappointing. I have seen nicer things said during a paternity test episode of Maury (who am I kidding...they do those every episode).
"But Caroline, this team has no big out of conference wins, is struggling mightily on offense, and just fell out of Lunardi's bracket!"
All of that is true. None of that is a death sentence for the season.
Instead of calling Joe Harris inept, Akil a bum, Brogdon worthless, or saying the team has no heart (all of which I have heard/read over the past week), try focusing on our improved free throw shooting. Or Justin Anderson's continued high level performance. Or Teven Jones making the most of more minutes. Or that UVA's defense is still a force to be reckoned with.
Your responsibility as a 'fan' is to be just that. A fan. Not a harbinger of sadness. Not a second coach. Tony Bennett knows they need to score more points, get more rebounds, and hit more free throws. Trust that it will happen. The season is not over until March, whether Virginia runs the ACC and makes the tournament, or until they fail to grab the ACC's automatic qualifier.
Know what does not help someone get better? Constantly telling them they are terrible. Or should be benched. They know better than anyone what mistakes they make, and booing or condescension is pointless. Confidence is a fickle beast in college basketball, so why would the 'fans' want to shake their own team's confidence?
Anticipate seeing reduced playing time from multiple players to try and give the guys more of a rhythm. Root for Harris to become more selfish and take some of those shots you know he can make. Look for Tobey to build off of his ten point performance at Tennessee.
So this time, let's give optimism a try. See if that feels any better.
Take it from Solomon Burke:
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"If I fall short. If I don't make the grade. If your expectations aren't met in me, today. There's always tomorrow, or tomorrow night. Hang in there baby. Sooner or later, I know I'll get it right. Please don't give up on me..."
That's the bright side, Wahoos. There is tomorrow, well, tomorrow night, against Florida State. So, please, don't give up on them.