With the NFL Draft grabbing headlines and everyone and their brother attempting to project what will happen, I got to thinking, of all things UVA sports in the last year, who or what would be number 1, top 5, top 10? Heck, why not do an entire round of picks, UVA Style. Without further ado, the First Annual Streaking the Lawn UVA Draft.
1. Tony Bennett - Don't overthink the first pick. He's young, he can flat out coach, and he is the perfect ambassador for UVA athletics as a whole. You build your franchise around him, no brainer, moving on.
2. National Championships - UVA is a perennial favorite to compete for national championships in numerous sports. This year, the Men's Soccer team took home the crown when they outlasted the UCLA Bruins with some stellar defensive tactics. Further, two Cavaliers took home Individual National Championships during the the last year. First, Danielle Collins won last spring's Women's Tennis Singles title, then this winter Leah Smith won the 1650 Freestyle at the Women's NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships.
3. ACC Championships - Every year the first step to athletic excellence is winning an ACC championship. So far this year, the Hoos have captured five. Wrestling, Women's Swimming, Women's Golf, Men's Tennis, and Women's Tennis have all achieved the honor. Still primed for their shot at a tournament title are Rowing, Men's and Women's Track and Field, Softball, and Baseball
4. Academics - Somewhat of a boring pick here, but boring picks can often make multiple All-Pro teams and lead teams to championships. Academics don't take a back seat at UVA. That is evidenced by the 305 UVA representatives on the ACC All-Academic Honor in 2013-2014.
5. Director's Cup - Coming off UVA's second-best finish in school history last year (4th), the Hoos are primed to once again stake their claim to having one of the best all-around athletic programs in the country. Virginia currently stands in 12th place following the winter sports season. With spring being a strength, that standing can only improve. Big point contributors this season include Men's Soccer (100 points), Women's Soccer (90 Points), and Women's Swimming and Diving (75 points).
6. Men's Tennis 139 Match ACC Winning Streak - This is the pick that just makes you say, wow! 139 ACC matches in a row is just ridiculous. The Hoos haven't lost in conference since April 26th, 2006. Just to put in perspective how long that has been; the John Paul Jones Arena was not yet completed, Dave Leitao was UVA's basketball coach, and Tony Bennett was just the Associate Head Coach at Washington State University. Further more, Al Groh was roaming the sidelines at Scott Stadium and UVA Football was still coming down off its high from beating Florida State for only the second time ever. So yeah, it was a long time ago.
7. Morgan Brian, Becky Sauerbrunn, and the US Women's National Soccer Team - Arguably the best player in UVA Women's Soccer history, two time MAC Hermann Trophy winner, Morgan Brian will join 2007 UVA graduate Becky Sauerbrunn on the US Women's National Team as they compete in the World Cup this summer in Vancouver, Canada. We can all put on our red, white, and blue and be proud of these two Hoos who brought so much success to Klockner Stadium over the years.
8. Scott Stadium - This could be seen as a reach by the uninformed, but Scott Stadium, despite the lack of success by the football team over the years, is a stadium that is unmatched in its setting and aesthetic features. Nothing beats a fall Saturday at Scott with its views of the mountains behind the south end zone, and the Colonnade that brings out the UVA charm wrapped around the hill at the north end.
9. Commonwealth Clash - Just behind winning the ACC as a going-in goal of all UVA sports teams is beating their rival from Blacksburg. This year, in the first iteration of the Commonwealth Clash, the Hoos clinched the win over the Hokies when Men's Golf came in 4th at the ACC Tournament last weekend. The Hoos lead 12-7 with the points for Men's and Women's Track and Field as well as the fan vote point still outstanding. Winning points for the Hoos were Men's and Women's Basketball, Women's Lacrosse, Men's and Women's Cross Country, Men's and Women's Soccer, Women's Swimming and Diving, and Men's and Women's Tennis. Winning half points for Virginia were Softball and Volleyball.
10. Spring Saturdays at UVA - You just can't beat an April Saturday at UVA. Take for instance April 18th just over a week ago. Within a stone's throw of one another you had Men's Lacrosse taking on Georgetown at Klockner, Baseball winning the series against Miami at Davenport, and the Men's and Women's Track and Field teams hosting 35 schools in the Virginia Challenge. And later that afternoon, the Football Spring Game was just a short walk down Alderman Road.
11. All Americans - All-Americans are nothing new at Virginia. During the last calendar year 33 UVA student athletes achieved the highest honor in their sport. They are mixed among Baseball, Men's Basketball, Men's Golf, Women's Lacrosse, Rowing, Men's and Women's Soccer, Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving, Men's and Women's Tennis, and Men's and Women's Track and Field.
12. Hoo Crew - What would an athletic program be without its fan base. This is the unsung pick of the first round. Named student section of the year in 2014, the Hoo Crew brings a knowledgeable and enthusiastic presence to all UVA sporting events. Nothing can match the energy and noise produced by this group when the shot clock goes under 10 at the JPJ.
13. Cavalier Marching Band - On the same note as the Hoo Crew, the Cavalier Marching Band has been providing the soundtrack to Wahoo success since 2004. Under the direction of Dr. William E. Pease, the CMB is present at all major UVA sporting events. The band has grown by leaps and bounds over the last 10 years and is a staple of the game day experience.
14. College Gameday - Speaking of Gameday, ESPN's College Gameday made its first ever visit to the JPJ on January 31st in advance of Virginia's showdown with Duke. The lines were long with students and fans wanting to get inside, and once in the arena the atmosphere was electric. The day was highlighted by Second Year Tyler Lewis draining a half court shot to win $18,000.
15. Hoos in the Pros - The major professional sports leagues are littered with former Cavaliers. Leading the list in the NFL are Branden Albert, Ahmad Brooks, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Chris Long, Heath Miller, Eugene Monroe, Morgan Moses, and Matt Schaub. The NBA has Joe Harris and Mike Scott. Finally in MLB, the Hoos are represented by Sean Doolittle, Phil Gosselin, Brandon Guyer, Javier Lopez, Mark Reynolds, Chris Taylor, and Ryan Zimmerman.
16. NBA Draft - This year's NBA draft will occur on June 25th, and two Wahoos are hoping their name is called. First, Justin Anderson projects as a late first to early second round pick. Second, Darion Atkins is hoping to find his way on to a team. The ACC Defensive Player of the Year has really impressed in pre-draft workouts and is potentially a flyer as a late second rounder.
17. Nathan Kirby and the MLB Draft - After a break-out second year, Nathan Kirby figures to be a top 10 pick in this year's MLB draft. Unfortunately a torn lat muscle could keep him out of the remainder of the Hoos 2015 season, but a full recovery is expected and it shouldn't hurt his draft status too much. Other UVA Baseball Players figured to be draft this year include Robbie Coman, Kenny Towns, Brandon Waddell, Josh Sborz, Joe McCarthy, and Daniel Pinero.
18. NFL Draft - Over the last 10+ years, UVA has put numerous players into the NFL via the draft. This year Eli Harold, Max Valles, and Anthony Harris all figure to be taken in the first five rounds. Additionally, Henry Coley, Darius Jennings, and Kevin Parks all have a shot at being drafted, but their hopes mostly lie being an undrafted free agent invited to an NFL camp.
19. Women's Golf Dominance at the ACC Tournament - The UVA Women's Golf Team absolutely dominated this year's ACC Women's Golf Tournament coming in a whopping 27-under par to set an ACC Tournament record. They finished 26 strokes ahead of runner-up Duke. To put that in perspective, Virginia golfers scored an average of two and a half strokes better per day than each of the competitors from second place Duke.
20. Number One in the Polls - The Virginia Cavaliers are fixture at number one in the polls and this year is no different. During the course of the year, the following teams have been ranked number one in their respective sports; Men's Soccer, Women's Soccer, and Baseball.
21. World Class Facilities - Over the last several years, UVA has made a commitment to making it facilities among the best in the country. Between the already mentioned Scott Stadium, John Paul Jones Arena, Klockner Stadium, and Davenport Field, the newest edition to UVA's "stadiums" is Lannigan Field. Home to the UVA Men's and Women's Track and Field teams, the site was transformed in 2011 into an elite Track and Field facility that has become one of the tops in the nation.
22. A Men's Lacrosse Run to the Title? - Could this year be a repeat of 2011. That season the Hoos entered the NCAA Tournament with a record of 9-5. They went on to win their next four games and win the NCAA Championship. This year the Hoos own a record of 10-4 going into the NCAA Tournament. Despite an 0-4 mark in conference play, they still rank number eight in the country and are capable of making a run at the championship.
23. Men's Basketball Offseason Improvements - Last year, Justin Anderson made huge strides in his three-point shooting and Darion Atkins transformed himself into an all around defender with a sweet touch around the rim. Both figure to be playing professional ball next which begs the question as to who from last year's team will make the big leap this season. Mike Tobey has been one of the best players UVA has seen with regards to advanced metrics, but still has a lot to prove in becoming a dominant ACC Center. Evan Nolte performed admirably in Anderson's absence, really contributing on the defensive end. And finally, Marial Shayok showed a fearlessness as a first year, and in spots proved that he could be as athletic as Anderson just given some time to mature.
24. Basketball Newcomers - Along with the players we know a lot about and are excited to see their continued development, there are several new faces that we are going to welcome to the rotation in the 2015-2016 season. First is Jack Salt, the 6-11 New Zealander who has a rep for being extremely physical in Hoo's practices. He figures to add some additional toughness down low. Next is Darius Thompson, the 6-4 Guard who transferred in from Tennessee. His transition game is supposedly off the charts, and some have said his hops are equal to that of Anderson. Yikes! And finally, Jared Reuter, the 6-8 Power Forward from Rochester, MA is a strong body who will give the Hoos another physical presence down low to execute the pack-line defense.
25. Women's Rowing Poised for a National Title - This is an under the radar pick that is sure the impress come May. The Hoos enter the postseason ranked number four in country with the Varsity Four coming off a defeat of top-ranked Ohio State in last weekend's event at Clemson. Virginia last won the NCAA Championship in 2012 and are poised to do so again here in 2015.
26. Men's Swimming Diving Team and Women's Field Hockey Due for a Bounce Back - In every draft there is that one player who had a proven track record for several seasons only to be slowed by injury or under-performance. That is the case for the Men's Swimming and Diving and Women's Field Hockey. After a season where the ACC favorite Men's Swimming and Diving team finished 8th at the ACC tournament, the Hoos will be looking to bounce back when they return 20 out of 25 swimmers to the pool next year. The Women's Field Hockey team showed a lot of fire this year finishing first in the ACC and earning the number one seed in the ACC Tournament. Unfortunately a loss to Wake Forest ended their season a bit earlier than expected. Nevertheless, the program is too talented to stay down for too long.
27. The Wide Receiving Corps - Last year the Hoo's Wide Receiver corps proved to be a bright spot for an otherwise underwhelming football season. This year the Hoos are led by returners Canaan Severin, Andre Levrone, Keeon Johnson, and the highly touted Jamil Kamara. In addition, transfer T.J. Thorpe impressed at the Spring Game and figures to contribute right away.
28. Boring Basketball - The national narrative surrounding the Men's Basketball team this season was that the slow pace and low scoring games produced by the Hoos were both boring and bad for basketball. After going 60-11 the last two seasons with two ACC Regular Season Titles and one ACC Tournament Title, there isn't a UVA fan out there that is bored by this team. When the JPJ gets as loud if not louder for a forced shot clock violation than it does for a fast break dunk, you know it is something special.
29. The Rise of UVA Women's Tennis - There is much to be said about the dominance of the Men's Tennis team (see pick number six), but the Women's Tennis team is coming on strong. They just captured their second ACC Championship in a row and can boast defending NCAA Champion, Danielle Collins. The Hoos are entering this year's tournament as the number nine seed and figure to play a prominent part in determining the NCAA Tournament championship.
30. Demetrious Nicholson - After not playing the second half of 2013 and last year due to a toe injury, Nicholson is poised to finish his career in Charlottesville on a high note. During his Second Year, Nicholson was as solid a shutdown corner as they come. He tied for the ACC lead with 15 pass breakups and was one of Virginia's top tacklers.
31. Stout Defense - Over the last several years, UVA sports have been defined by their stout defense. Led by Tony Bennett and the Men's Basketball team defining how solid team defense can be played at the college level. Followed up by the Men's Soccer team who rode a physical, bunched defense to the NCAA championship this year. And finally, the Baseball team who's pitching and defense have been its calling card in Coach Brian O'Connor's tenure in Charlottesville. Defense live here.
32. UVA's Top Athletes- For the 2014-2015 season, Morgan Brian and Malcom Brogdon have been named UVA's top athletes. The selections come as no surprise as Brian led the Cavaliers to the Finals of the College Cup and was named All-American for the third time in addition to her second MAC Hermann Trophy. Meanwhile, Brogdon led the Men's Basketball team to its second consecutive ACC Regular Season Championship while earning Second Team All-American honors.
So there you have it, the First Annual Streaking the Lawn UVA Draft. What or who was left out? Who is your top pick?