Reasons For Renewed Optimism

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Coach Tony Bennett has many fans excited about the future.

The Virginia men’s basketball team opens ACC Tournament play on Thursday at noon. The game matches eighth-seeded UVa and ninth-seeded Miami. It’s far from a glamorous position and neither team is heading to the NCAA Tournament unless it wins four games in four days. Yet, optimism is palpable among Cavalier fans.

The reason, in its simplest form, is obvious. Hoos believe better days are ahead. That’s right, good old fashioned hope. It’s not uncommon, of course, in the early stages of a new coach’s tenure for that to be the case. The honeymoon period has that fresh feeling to it for everyone from the players to the fans so there is a renewed sense of possibility.

Sometimes it’s rational and sometimes it’s not.

Sometimes it’s justified. I believe this is one of those times.

Why the hope for the program under coach Tony Bennett, owner of a 31-30 record to date at Virginia? To me, it goes beyond possibilities and straight to the product. Bennett and his staff are building a basketball foundation that is sustainable. That’s a buzz word-worthy sentence if I’ve ever seen one. There is tangible evidence to think brighter days are ahead, though.

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My top three reasons for having an optimistic outlook on Virginia’s basketball future:

  • Cohesive defense. It’s not the Pack-Line Defense per se that makes me think Bennett’s teams have a chance to be successful year after year. After all, you can play zone (Syracuse), press (Missouri), or pressure man to man (Duke) and be successful. The key in any system is whether the five players on the floor are playing defense together. While it has yet to be consistent through 60-plus games – Wake Forest this season was admittedly awful for example – there are signs of cohesive defense at Virginia. The easiest place to see the growth this season is in the Pack-Line’s post double team. Early in the schedule, the rotations were often a step slow, a bit hesitant, and a little