Going Somewhere

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Tony Bennett’s UVa record is 15-16 in his first season, but positive signs are emerging for the future.

In February, things looked bleak for Virginia and it had nothing to do with the long losing streak. After all, not a lot changed in that regard in the last two days as the Hoos posted a 1-1 mark in the ACC Tournament. No, the gloomy outlook had more to do with poor play, on-floor chemistry and inconsistent effort. It was about quality as Tony Bennett likes to say.

Heck, the tone had gotten so bad that it threatened to erase the progress and positive steps the team had made through January. Lopsided scores and multiple losses sapped the energy from the players all the way through to the fans. Add in the suspension of Sylven Landesberg and the program’s momentum train was teetering on the tracks.

Virginia needed something positive to happen heading toward the offseason. Just something to provide a little boost to the psyche to help with the rebuilding effort. To show everyone, recruits included, what’s still possible.

That’s exactly what happened in the past week. The tenor changed.

Bennett called the practices around the ACC Tournament spirited. A team devoid of the necessary emotion and effort – the kinds of things that spark ‘lost the team’ and ‘quitting’ and ‘heart’ conversations on the message boards – for weeks battled, scratched and clawed for 80 minutes of tournament basketball. Players dug in on defense, fought on the boards, dove on the floor and gave two gutsy efforts. The Hoos knocked off Boston College. They gave Duke, a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, a heavyweight fight – yeah, they took some punches but they punched right back.

“I thought we showed some toughness. We didn’t have our best offensive game obviously, and we were in it the whole way, except they made a little run in the second half, and we were unable to answer offensively,” UVa guard Sammy Zeglinski said of Friday’s loss to the Devils. “I thought defense kept us in it, and as a recruit, I think they should be excited about the direction we’re going into, what we’re trying to do out there on the court, and our principles.”