The Virginia Cavaliers are 3 games into the season and sit at 1-2, which ties the 2012-13 team for the worst start under Tony Bennett. That 2013 team rebounded to win 8 in a row after that start and finished with a 21-10 overall record and 11-7 in the ACC. They would lose to NC State in the first round of the ACC Tournament but got a No. 1 seed in the NIT. We know Bennett has a way of turning things around, but the two losses to Houston and Navy have frustrated the fanbase. Do you see this team turning it around like the ‘12-’13 team, or are you ready to press the panic button on the 2021-22 season?
Pierce: There are a lot of growing pains for this team to go through to get to the level of play it’ll require to be a “top” ACC team this season - mainly on offense. Luckily, we’ve see CTB employ a number of tweaks (or entirely different offensive sets) over the past few seasons. I think a lot of what we’ve seen so far is part of the usual early season exploration he’s done with his teams as he tries various lineups and strategies. So...not panicking really on what this season could end up being...BUT...it’ll take a really big shift on the offensive game plan (perhaps leaning on pushing it more in transition?!?! we’ll never see that will we?) and guys finding their shot more consistently to turn this around. I’d say it’s more likely to turn into a decent season than a disappointing one at this point.
Brian: I mean, I think half the fan base forgets that Houston was a Final Four team last year and is a good team. UVA lost worse than expected, but I don’t think the L alone is really that noteworthy. Also this UVA team is a shell of what it’s been in years past given the player turnover, and the team’s expected leading scorers are both transfers who didn’t even get the benefit of sitting out a year to really get into the system, so it’s going to be a while before we start seeing this team gel as TB’s teams have in the past. Not time to hit the panic button yet — I’m giving leeway all the way until early ACC play.
Will: It appears Brian thinks UVA is 1-1 on the season and forgot about the opening night loss to Navy. Whatever gets you through the day I guess. I have the utmost faith in Tony Bennett. If you had told me in 2009 that Tony Bennett was going to do all he had over the last 12 years I would have laughed. The man has worked a miracle. And I think in the coming years, given what appears to be another stellar recruiting class signed up, great days could be coming.
But I am hitting the panic button on this year and I am worried they might not even make the NIT.
The offensive performances the team has put together through the first three games are extremely worrying. The rotations and lineups that are on the court are head scratching. The Packline, which is the bread and butter, doesn’t seem to be working yet either. Yes, it is complicated and this is a somewhat new team, so that could turn around soon. The problem is the losses that pile up at the beginning of the season matter as well. Navy will end up likely being a Quad 3 loss while Houston will certainly be a Quad 1 loss. A Quad 3 loss is somewhat forgiveable, but you can’t take more than 1 if you have hopes of an at-large bid. I don’t have much confidence that they’ll avoid another stumble against a Quad 3 opponent.
The turn around could happen. We all know that, but I just don’t know that it is coming with the current roster makeup.
Brian: Very on brand for you to hit the panic button this early. Completely agree that Navy is a bad loss and a head scratcher, but that doesn’t take away from the reasons I said that it’s too early to hit said panic button. You’re saying that not only was UVA not a top-25 team to start the season (fair), but that UVA won’t even finish in the Top 100. Ye of little faith in Kihei Clark.
Zach: In many ways I feel like the answer to this question comes down to what would warrant panicking. There’s a distinct possibility that this team is more middle of the pack in the ACC than a potential contender in the conference. That plus missing the tournament would probably be an unsuccessful season in my book. Yet, I’m not ready to freak out quite yet. The ‘Hoos have opportunities to get back on track while facing respectable competition in non-conference play with games against Georgia, either Providence or Northwestern, and Iowa. None of those are massive tests, but will provide a barometer for this teams improvement over the next month or so. There is talent on this roster that should be competitive in the ACC. Like last year, it’s just going to be a matter of how quickly the group meshes together and how well Tony Bennett and his staff can schematically alleviate the roster’s issues and put their players in the best positions to succeed. I’ve got faith a turnaround is coming. It won’t be to the extent of the 2013-2014 season, and probably not even to the extent of the last two years. But to think the first three games of the season are the norm for this team would be to completely ignore Tony Bennett’s chops as a team builder and the talent — if oddly assorted — on this roster.
What about you? Are you panicking?