Virginia Basketball Notes: UVA’s Season Opener Announced

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Virginia opens the season on Nov. 25.
Jay Huff and the Hoos will open the season with St. Peter’s and Florida at the Mohegan Sun. ~ Kris Wright

The NCAA announced in September the new start date for college basketball season during the ongoing pandemic, but official schedule news has been scarce as programs and conferences work behind the scenes to fill in the details. On Wednesday, however, Virginia fans finally learned the first two game dates for the upcoming season.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and Gazelle Group announced that UVA is playing at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut to open the season. The Cavaliers will face St. Peter’s on the first day of college basketball season on Wednesday, Nov. 25. They’ll then take on Florida on Friday, Nov. 27. Game times and broadcast details will be announced at a later date. The Hoos and the Gators have never met in the regular season, but Virginia has exited the NCAA Tournament twice in the Tony Bennett era with losses to Florida.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Gazelle Group are working to produce various games at the Mohegan Sun from Nov. 25 through Dec. 5 and have nicknamed the resort “Bubbleville” as a result. UVA’s games at the arena are part of a multiple team event, meaning that the Hoos can play up to four other non-conference games this season in addition to the expected 20-game ACC schedule.

One of those four non-con slots still appears to be reserved for Villanova. That contest was originally scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 19 at Madison Square Garden and Nova coach Jay Wright has told reporters several times this fall that he expects to still play UVA this season. He told CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein this week that the two programs are still planning to play at Madison Square Garden, but the date and time are still to be determined.

Preseason Chatter

While schedule news has not been popular on the internet, preseason predictions and rankings have been. The Sabre’s weekly Fan Friday series mentioned the CBS Sports’ ACC preview that picked UVA as the conference favorite and Coach Bennett as the Coach of the Year favorite. That matches the sports books’ opening odds, which made Virginia the favorite as well.

ESPN’s Dick Vitale released his preseason top 40 earlier in October. He too likes Virginia’s chances this season as he ranked the Cavaliers No. 4 behind Gonzaga, Villanova, and Baylor. He placed Duke ninth in those rankings.

There have also been articles focused on players. Jeff Borzello at ESPN.com, for example, compiled “Newcomer Impact Rankings” this week. As has been the case throughout the offseason, Virginia’s Sam Hauser is on the list. Borzello ranked him as the No. 2 player on the newcomer impact list. Hauser sat out last season after transferring from Marquette where he was a second-team All-Big East selection as a junior while averaging 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds.

Andy Katz at NCAA.com also has Hauser on a preseason list: 10 Player of the Year contenders for college basketball season. He ranked Hauser No. 10

Big Pay Day Coming?

Former Cavalier Joe Harris is a free agent this offseason and a report this week indicates that Harris may be in line for a big contract. ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on his podcast, according to the Real GM web site, that the Brooklyn Nets should expect significant competition in their effort to re-sign Harris.

“I have news for the Nets,” Lowe said on his podcast. “They’re going to have competition for Joe Harris. These teams with cap room all view Joe as a potential very good fit on the floor and a good culture guy.”

Lowe went on to say that Harris could be in line for a $15 million/year contract this offseason.

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