Virginia Basketball Still Could Have Stronger Defense Than Some Expect

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Virginia is ranked in the preseason top 10.
Virginia posted one of its best seasons on defense in Tony Bennett’s tenure last season. ~ Mike Ingalls

As college basketball inches closer to the starting line, fans continue to eagerly analyze their team’s outlook for the season ahead. For Virginia fans, that analysis can be boiled down to one encouraging word: contender. The Cavaliers clearly can compete for titles in the ACC regular season race and in the postseason tournaments.

The roots for that optimism are easy to find. The Hoos return the bulk of a roster that won 23 games, including 11 of its final 12, to finish in a second-place tie in the ACC and safely as a top 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The returning players include junior Kihei Clark, one of the nation’s top players in assists a year ago with 176, and senior Jay Huff, who closed the season as one of UVA’s hottest players.

The Cavaliers, of course, did lose two key players. Seniors Mamadi Diakite and Braxton Key finished their careers with a Senior Day win against Louisville, 57-54. Diakite posted 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots, while Key added 6 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists against the Cardinals. Both played important roles in the 2019 National Championship run as well. In other words, that’s a significant duo to lose.

Still, Virginia