The Virginia Cavaliers men’s basketball team opens the season against Tarleton State, a WAC team who are only in their fourth year of DI. The Texans finished last year 17-17 and played a postseason game in the CBI tournament. They lost to Radford in that game. They are coached by Billy Gillispie, who previously coached at Kentucky, among other places.
This team is almost entirely new since last season. Somehow there are 21 players on this roster. Eight are freshmen. Seven more are JUCO transfers. Two DII transfers. Just four returning players, and just two of those were real contributors.
With so many new faces, and so many faces, it is awfully hard to scout them. Lue Williams figures to be a major part of the team, as their leading returning scorer. He’s 6’5” and he can shoot it. Didn’t shoot a ton of threes, but made 41%.
The big man cuts through the paint, loses his man in some traffic and drains the open three. Yes, that is Tarleton State leading BC by double digits early. They led by 16 at half and it never got close after that. Though they had better wins based on team analytics, that was their only major conference win last season.
For Virginia fans, this game is not about Tarleton State. It’s about Virginia. A lot of new faces for the Wahoos. The starting five is listed in the game notes as Reece Beekman, Andrew Rohde, Isaac McKneely, Ryan Dunn and Jacob Groves. That team has a lot of shooting, has quickness, and has some good defenders. It does not have much size or rebounding.
This is Rohde, with St Thomas last year, with the pull-up three. He made just 31% from deep, but he should be better than that surrounded by better players.
Tarleton State does not have much size, but they do have 6’8” 225 pound Blake Brinkmeyer. He began his career at Indiana State as a true freshman in 2018, but played just a couple games before being injured. He ultimately had to go the JUCO route to get back into DI. He could cause problems on the glass.
Off the bench, though, that could provide the opportunity for Virginia’s bigs Blake Buchanan and Jordan Minor. Ryan Dunn is a terrific rebounder and defender as a starter, so it’ll be interesting to see how Minor and Buchanan are used in spelling Groves — who is much more of a stretch big.
Tony Bennett has said that his starting lineup could fluctuate throughout the season depending on who’s playing well and who the Cavaliers are playing. Heading into the season opener, Groves has reportedly been impressive in the preseason and likely won’t be exploited by the typically undersized Texas of Tarleton State. But, if he is, that could be a sign that Buchanan and Minor will have a more prominent role as the season progresses and Virginia’s opponents get better and better.
The ‘Hoos are favored by 16.5. Don’t be surprised if it’s closer than that. Tony Bennett and his staff will be using these early season games to tinker with lineups and rotations. Gillispie and his staff will likely be doing the same.