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Weekly Hoops Check-In: UVA Must Avoid Coaching Distraction

The Bo Ryan news dropped right in the middle of Virginia's tough non-conference stretch.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

The UVA basketball team was already facing what one commentator called the toughest non-conference stretch in the nation.

And then the Bo Ryan retirement news happened.

You’ll have to forgive any Wahoo fans who hope that Ryan gets a lump of coal this Christmas. The future Hall of Famer’s mid-season retirement will surely prompt discussion about whether Wisconsin will pursue Virginia coach Tony Bennett. I don’t think a Bennett move is likely. But I’m just speculating.

What’s much clearer is that the Wisconsin story could potentially serve as a distraction for a Virginia team that’s fork-and-knife deep into the meat of its non-conference schedule. It already made its way to the front page of the Daily Progress sports section this morning.

To quote one Ebeneezer Hiram Scrooge, "Bah Humbug."

On the bright side, if any Virginia team has been positioned to handle distraction, it might be this one. The maturity of Virginia’s roster should help keep the group focused. With 4 seniors and a junior, the Hoos don’t lack for player leadership. And I can't imagine Malcolm Brogdon or Anthony Gill getting rattled if faced with a question about the Wisconsin opening.

Moreover, Bennett has done well keeping his team laser-focused in recent years. The Hoos rose to #2 in the polls last season and only lost two regular-season games despite increased national media scrutiny. Bennett  tried to deflect most of the attention that ESPN College Gameday brought to Charlottesville. And Virginia certainly didn’t lose that night’s game to Duke because of the increased attention.

Still, things won’t come easy for Bennett’s squad when it faces Villanova and Cal at home in the coming days. Brogdon, Gill, and their teammates will need to bring their best efforts in both contests. And they’ll need tune out any outside "noise" if they want to make it through unscathed.

Thanks to news from up north, Virginia’s journey to the Christmas holiday just got a little bit trickier. Here’s hoping Santa detours from his trip to Bo Ryan’s house to drop off two victories for the Hoos in Hooville.