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Virginia Opens Second Title Defense Against Towson

We hope this preview doesn’t become stale within minutes of us publishing.

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Virginia Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia was scheduled to play Maine and Florida in the season-opening “Bubbleville” Tournament at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. Then, Florida had to drop out because of CoVID-19. Then, just about 24 hours before tip-off, Maine also had to bow out, reportedly due to CoVID-19. Virginia has quickly replaced both opponents, with Towson and San Francisco. It’s a bit disappointing to not get that marquee matchup against the Gators, but Towson should be an improvement over Maine, at least in terms of quality of opponent. Maine, after all, is likely one of the worst teams in the country.

Then again, Virginia and Towson last played the season opener during Virginia’s Championship season, a 73-42 win by the good guys. Kihei Clark had 4 points and 6 assists in the first game of his career.

Towson finished that season ranked 291st on KenPom. However, they finished last year 158th, a marked improvement. The finished the season 19-13, going 12-6 in the CAA.

That record, and KenPom ranking, may be tough to replace. The top three scorers from last year’s team are all gone (two to graduation and Allen Betrand transferred to Rhode Island). That means head coach Pat Skerry basically has to revamp his entire roster.

Towson at least returns their starting backcourt in Jason Gibson and Nicolas Timberlake. Gibson is an elite shooter (38% last year), but he’s undersized, which makes him a good matchup for Kihei Clark.

The other returner of consequence is Juwan Gray, a 6’8” transfer (in 2019) from San Diego. Gray is strong on the glass and defensively. He thinks he can shoot, but made under 30% from downtown last year (he did make 42% as a freshman at San Diego, but that was with the shorter three point line.

Skerry has added to his returners with a number of transfers. The most interesting of those is Zane Martin, who played two years at Towson before transferring to New Mexico. He’s now back at Towson as a graduate transfer. Martin will play some PG, but likely starts out next to Gibson on the wing. Martin averaged 20 points per game as a sophomore for the Tigers, but struggled to get it going with the Lobos. He shot just 24% from downtown last year after 37% in his final season with the Tigers. He’s not just a shooter though, he can get to the rim and he’s also a strong playmaker.

This is from Martin’s first stint with the Tigers. And I do not know why the colors change halfway through the clip.

For the most part, the rest of the transfers are guys who weren’t going to get much run at their previous stops. Curtis Holland III (High Point), Demetrius Mimms (Long Beach State), Cam Allen (CSU Bakersfield), and Victor Uyaelunmo (USC) will all have to prove their worth if Towson is going to compete for an NCAA tournament bid.

Uyaelunmo is one to watch, he was a big recruit for the Trojans at 6’11” 220 and was expected to do big things there. He didn’t and transferred after one season. Victor’s brother Solomon is also on the team. Along with Gray, those two are basically the only size on the roster. They’re going to have trouble against the likes of Jay Huff, Sam Hauser and company in the Virginia frontcourt.

Towson provides a bit more of a challenge than Maine would’ve, but for the Cavaliers and fans, this game is not about Towson. It’s about Virginia. It’s about finally seeing Sam Hauser suit up. It’s about seeing Jabri, Carson and Reece suit up for the first time. It’s about seeing Jay Huff. That is, if you have a FloHoops subscription.

We’ll leave you with a couple of Jay Huff alley-oop jams from the last matchup. Huff had 8 points on just four shots in that game. Lots of this tomorrow please, thanks.

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