The Virginia Cavaliers men’s basketball media team has released its game notes for Monday’s season opener, and included in them is a “potential starting lineup” and “off the bench” listing of ten total players on the roster.
While this could very well indicate the five starters for the Wahoos on Monday evening against Tarleton State, this is a disclaimer that Tony Bennett did not release these notes.
This is from the wonderful folks of Virginia Media Relations, who undoubtedly are tuned into the happenings of the team, but are also not coaches making the decisions in the locker room. Again, this is a “potential starting lineup” and projected set of players “off the bench”, so let’s treat it appropriately and not overreact.
Now, here’s my overreaction to this release.
Beekman, McKneely, and Dunn are the easy ones. Of course they’re starting. You knew they would, I knew they would, my grandmother knew they would.
Rohde and Groves are the two notable inclusions in the “potential starting lineup”. For deeper thoughts on Groves, read my piece from Friday morning on why I suspected he would start and what that means for this team.
To condense that piece, Groves fits well with Dunn in the frontcourt. He provides necessary shooting, schematic versatility on offense as a result, is a respectable defensive rebounder, and the team should be able to mask his defensive flaws with Dunn on the floor, particularly against smaller and lesser competition. He’s also simply played far more high level college basketball than the rest of the options, so him starting the season as a starter makes some sense.
Rohde is where this gets fun. Dante Harris has been hyped up continuously in the build up to this season. The majority of the players I talked to at media day labeled him as the toughest guy on the team to guard, and Tony Bennett has been raving about his ability to pester opposing ball handlers. But Bennett also mentioned this past Monday that Harris has been dealing with a (non-serious) shoulder injury that kept him out of the team’s scrimmage against Maryland, so that could be part of the reason Rohde is listed among the “potential starters”.
Rohde is also a stinking good basketball player, and he fits the starting five better (at least on offense) than Harris does. He provides the same degree of ball handling and playmaking ability as Harris does, but brings more shooting, more of a knack to create and make his own shot, and more size at 6’6” relative to Harris’ 6’0”. He has a higher ceiling than Harris, and the offense will likely work smoother with him on the floor next to Beekman than it will with the Harris and Beekman pairing. The St. Thomas transfer also allows for Isaac McKneely to play as the two and not have to be as responsible for guarding bigger players.
Looking beyond the starting lineup, there aren’t many additional surprises. Blake Buchanan is clearly not redshirting, as evidenced by his inclusion among the “off the bench” players, but also because of the numerous rave reviews from his teammates and coaches coming out of late. The other four players listed are all known to be active for the ‘Hoos this season.
Notable by their absence are true freshmen Elijah Gertrude, Anthony Robinson, and Christian Bliss. Bliss confirmed that he is redshirting earlier this week after reclassifying for the purpose of spending a year doing so. Robinson has been slightly more up in the air, and again this alone doesn’t tell us that he will be, but it seems likely he will redshirt.
Gertrude is the interesting one. When speaking to him earlier this week, he didn’t seem to be planning to redshirt unless he was forced to by his continued recovery from a torn ACL during his senior year of high school. But he hasn’t been included here, at least projecting that there is some basic uncertainty about his status. Or UVA’s simply decided not to list him to keep everyone guessing. Who really knows right now.
For all I know, this could be a curveball directed at the media for the purpose of getting goofballs like me to write stories exactly like this to throw off Virginia’s opponents and misdirect the public. That doesn’t seem likely though, and the Beekman-McKneely-Rohde-Dunn-Groves starting lineup has appeared to be one of the favored groupings for a little bit now. And Bennett himself has said that there will likely be different starting lineups depending on who’s playing well and who they’re playing on a given night. Again, this is merely a “potential starting lineup” so take it with a grain of salt.