ACC Operation Basketball, the conference's media days, is officially underway. Virginia junior guard Malcolm Brogdon and senior forward Darion Atkins were on tap this morning to answer the media's questions about this upcoming year.
There are two story lines, of course, that you're expecting. First, is Virginia getting the respect it deserves? And second, what will the team do in the wake of Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell graduating?
When another player was asked to rattle off the top teams in the conference, Duke and Carolina came to mind quickly, but it was a bit of an afterthought when he finally remembered to include Virginia to the list. Brogdon was asked how he felt about still being low on that list, despite the Hoos winning both ACC titles last year.
The program has thrived on being an underdog and being underestimated, Brogdon replied. He said that the team has a chip on their shoulder, and that comments like that are what adds to the fire going into every season.
In terms of who might replace Harris and Mitchell as the leaders of the team, Brogdon said that he, Atkins, and Anthony Gill will all step into leadership roles this year. Each one of them will lead in different ways, and they're all capable of leading the team to the extent the team needs to be led.
There's no doubt about it -- the team is hungry this year. Atkins added that not only do they have a chip on their shoulder, but they're going to come out and show everyone that the Hoos can build off of last year and go even deeper in the tournament. Hopefully they will get to where they want to be, Atkins added, and that's the national championship.
When asked about how to build off of last year, Brogdon said that the key is to ignore expectations, ignore the hype, and block distractions. The team gets its patience, both on defense and otherwise, from Coach Bennett, who remains calm and does not panic when the team makes mistakes. The team looks to imitate that.
Brogdon also complimented the four new freshmen and one new transfer, who he says are receptive to the advice and leadership of the others on the team.
"We have great chemistry already. We're gellin' very well together."