The Virginia men’s basketball team takes the court tonight looking to go 3-0 to start the season as Coppin State comes to town. As the season gets underway, I asked the Streaking the Lawn staff what they’d like to see from the team this year — outside of a national championship/Final Four appearance.
Pierce: Well if option one and two for the team’s top goals are off the table, I think option three is clearly another ACC tournament title. Doing so this year would be a huge statement that UVa is the best team in the ACC and a premiere program despite the historic upset last season. To be clear: I don’t think we know yet that UVa is the best team in the conference (or even top three) - it’s just what I want to see happen! Of course, if they were to blow it again in the NCAAT first weekend following an ACC title...then that accomplishment becomes nearly meaningless. Success in the NCAA tournament (even if it’s not a Final Four berth) is so so critical this year - so I may want to see another tourney championship but it has to be paired with something not-embarrassing the next week.
Paul: I’ll buy into the “chop wood, carry water” mantra and focus on process over results. I’ve been beating this drum for a few months, but I very much want to see more flexibility with lineups and offensive style. It seems like we’ve gotten some glimpses so far of something close to a 4-out offense that utilizes the athletic bigs. Something akin to John Beilein’s offensive sets would let De’Andre Hunter play the role that Moe Wagner played for the Wolverines. Take a page out of Bob McKillop’s offensive playbook from Davidson. The point is not to pick one offense to replace the blocker-mover, but to implement elements and looks from lots of offenses. This can help UVA shake off disasters like what we saw in That Game, when the one offense just wasn’t working and there wasn’t another schematic tool in the bag. The 2018-19 squad certainly looks to have more versatility than any Bennett has had in his tenure in Charlottesville. The strategy should adapt to make the best use of it.
Emily: More small ball (pun intended). Sorry Jack Salt, but I want to see us finally start putting some big numbers on the board this season a time or two. I think the way we do that is by utilizing the best players have, even if that means playing some non-traditional offense with a smaller lineup and sharper shooters. Plus, it’ll be good for guys like Dre as they look towards a future in the NBA, where small ball is starting a revolution.
Trogdon: Big picture: where Virginia has risen as a basketball program, there’s only pressing thing it needs to accomplish: it needs to play up to its seed in March. All of the other boxes have been checked: multiple ACC regular-season titles (check), multiple ACC tournament titles (check,) best regular season in school history (check), finally winning at Cameron Indoor (check), #1 team in the country (check), consistent sell-out crowds (check), one of the best home court advantages in the country (check). I could go on. But I remained convinced that Virginia is at a point in its arc where it will almost-solely be judged by what happens in March.
Small picture: I’d like to see Marco, Jay, and Kihei continue to get better. They’re going to be an important part of the bridge between the Guy/Jerome/Hunter generation on the Morsell/Shedrick generation. I hope they can each take a step forward this year. I’m really excited about Kihei so far.
Smaller picture: I’ll echo Emily’s thoughts. Spread some teams out with small ball and let loose every now and again.
Danny: Big picture: Considering a Final Four and/or title game are off the table for this question, the top thing I want to see Virginia Basketball do is make another Elite Eight. While another ACC regular season or Tournament title are nice, the narrative of the Hoos choking in March would lessen a little if they make a little tournament run. Now if they pull another Syracuse and blow a big lead to a lower seed in the Elite Eight, then I would take those ACC titles instead. But if UVA is a #2 seed and loses to a #1 seed, say Kansas, in a close game, then I’m fine with it.
Small picture: As some people have already mentioned, I would like to see some noticeable changes in the offensive system. It would be refreshing to see them put up 90 in a game or win a shootout, or something that shows that the system is more flexible and will not be susceptible to what has doomed them in the past.
Tiki: Big picture: I enjoy having a nationally recognized program. It isn’t much, but remaining in the top 10 all year is nice. It means that our games are always a big deal and we’re always on SportsCenter. (Not that I’ve watched SportsCenter in the last 10 years.) That basically means no bad losses.
Small picture: Kind of the same that other people have said, but Tony being more flexible with his lineups and rotation. There have been times when it seemed like Tony has reacted to other team’s lineups, which is ridiculous for a program with this much talent and success. The four best players are all wings, so let’s see opponents try to match up with that.
What say you, readers? Leave a comment below!