Okay crew, time for another roundtable. With football on a bye week this past weekend and basketball season fewer than three weeks away, who are you most excited to watch for the Virginia Cavaliers men’s basketball team this year and why?
I’ll start with the easy one, at least for me: Ryan Dunn. There’s a reason some draft folks are projecting him as a lottery pick. That might be a bit ambitious considering the room for improvement he does have on offense, but Dunn is an elite wing defender with an expanding offensive game.
Ryan Dunn fits a clear mold of what NBA teams look for in a big wing at 6-foot-8 with a 7'1" wingspan and the swift explosiveness to guard up and down a lineup. Poised for a breakout sophomore season at Virginia.— League Him (@League_Him) October 8, 2023
Dunn's trajectory mirrors that of past Cavaliers who, despite… pic.twitter.com/lr4o868820
His five assists in the Blue-White game were evidence of his growing comfort on offense, and his handle looks more under control than it was last year. If he can achieve the projected development from the three-point line and as a shot creator, there’s no reason why he can’t put together a second season that starts to live up to his absurd potential.
Seeing him in a bigger role will be especially fun. After playing just 12.9 minutes per game as a freshman before arguably deserving far more, it’ll be great to see him in a much more prominent role as a sophomore.
Leon Bond. Why? For one, we simply haven’t seen him yet with the exception of some incredible highlight dunks in pregame warmups at JPJ and a few hilarious jumbotron interviews. But he really stuck out at the Blue-White scrimmage in a positive way and looks like a ACC-caliber basketball player entering his first official season after redshirting in 2022-23.
Bond is 6’5” without great guard skills, which may limit his usage this season. He’s also incredibly bouncy, and from what we’ve seen looks good finishing around the basket and shooting off the catch; it would be a disappointment if the coaching staff doesn’t at least give Bond a shot. From videos released by the team, Bond also seems like an infectious personality who should be very easy to root for. I’m excited to see how Bond’s unique game translates to the college basketball court — at the very least, it will be flashy.
Isaac McKneely. As John discussed here, there is a history of top Virginia recruits blossoming in their sophomore season. He was the only real consistent outside threat for much of last season. In the final two games of the season, both tournament losses, the Hoos were 6/29 (20%), but Isaac was 4/11 (36%).
"I hope his career will keep going and take off like some of those guys."— Preston Willett (@PrestonWillett) February 6, 2023
Isaac McKneely ranks second in 3-pointers made among first-years under Tony Bennett and is one of 9 true freshmen to play 20+ minutes. Not far off a couple other UVA sharpshooters: https://t.co/DpZB9TrATM pic.twitter.com/wiOn3qpA9z
Tony Bennett’s teams have been at their best when the offense and defense are equally efficient. The past few seasons, the offense has not been able to keep up, especially late in the season. For Virginia to have the season we think they can have, McKneely needs to remain around 40% from downtown (39% last season) on higher volume. And he most likely needs to average double-figure points.
Gee I guess I’ll go with their best player and leader of the team: Reece Beekman. I come not to bury Kihei Clark, but after last season’s ignominious ending, I think we’re all pretty excited to see what the Beek-Man can do with more on his shoulders. The outside shooting flash he began last season with could be a huge lift for the ‘Hoos (and Reece’s draft prospects), so I’m curious to see if he’ll show more consistency there.
Really, though I’m looking forward to DPOY and even ACC POY chatter, I’m just excited to see Beekman finish his highly entertaining career here with some sort of statement-making win in March. Whether that be a regular season title, ACCT trophy, or strong run in the national tournament, I hope Reece leads this team to a final positive ending to his chapter here.
Andrew Rohde. There are a lot of question marks surrounding the team’s outside shooting (outside of Isaac McKneely) and I think that Rohde can provide answers as a secondary threat from three. He attempted an outrageous 175 triples as a freshman, and while that number will go down, I expect his percentage to go up from 32.0% as he selectively shoots within the flow of the offense.
Additionally, his size on the wing is enticing. At 6’6, he can match-up against opposing forwards while UVA runs smaller lineups with combos of Beekman, McKneely, and Harris. Rohde is comfortable creating off the dribble and he’s crafty in the paint, utilizing his length to hit contested runners and finish on both sides of the rim.
While I’m not predicting a Ty Jerome-esque Sophomore season, there are some similarities in their game, and I think that for Virginia to reach it’s ceiling, Rohde will need to be a legitimate scoring option who can spark the offense whether it’s from the bench or the starting five.
Who are YOU most excited to watch this season?
This poll is closed