Virginia Fan Q&A: How Can Hoo Hoops Fix The Defense?

Jayden Gardner defends Paolo Bachero during the Duke game. ~ Photo by Mike Ingalls/

It’s time for another round of mailbag questions in the Virginia Q&A feature, which runs as part of our Fan Friday content on There were a lot of questions last week so we split it up into two articles. Today: basketball!

Before getting into the questions themselves, I thought it was interesting how many fans are thinking about the UVA defense in the middle of the spring. Announcers on TV often joke about how much Cavalier fans appreciate shot clock violations during games and how much they are bought into the defensive style. Offseason chatter about the defense, though? That proves it!

On to the questions …

How often will Gardner and BVP share the floor, and in what lineups? ~ Toolie92

I assume this may have already been asked because it is on everybody’s mind best guess at the distribution of the 200 basketball minutes next year? ~ nyhoo

When Virginia learned that Jayden Gardner and Kihei Clark would return as ‘Super Seniors’ using the extra year of eligibility created by the pandemic, there were already bound to be questions about minutes distribution. After all, the Hoos have a highly rated recruiting class coming to town in a few weeks. When they added Ohio ‘Super Senior’ Ben Vander Plas a few days later, though … well figuring out the puzzle pieces became item of interest No. 1. Both of these questions touch on that.

I often try to address rotation hopes and minutes possibilities in the 10 preseason questions articles each year. Sometimes, I’m close. Sometimes, I’m not. Last year, I was not.

I had preseason items on Igor Milicic Jr., Taine Murray, and Carson McCorkle but barely mentioned Malachi Poindexter. Of course, none of them got consistent minutes and only one of them is back on the Virginia roster (Milicic, McCorkle, and Poindexter all transferred out). I also talked about how Kody Stattmann and Francisco Caffaro probably would plug into some sort of role as glue guys that had experience in the program. That’s exactly what happened, but the rotation essentially stopped there with that duo plus Gardner, Clark, Reece Beekman, Armaan Franklin, and Kadin Shedrick rounding out the seven players that saw consistent PT.

Fast forward to this upcoming season and six of those players, all that started some games, return and UVA brought in Vander Plas with 3,824 career minutes in three years worth of starting at Ohio. How do those seven fit? How do the incoming players Isaac McKneely, Isaac Traudt, Leon Bond, and Ryan Dunn mix in? It’s tough to figure out minutes for 11 guys no matter which team you’re talking about. Plus, we know that coach Tony Bennett generally plays 8 or 9 guys and that he’s more likely to go toward 7 than 10.

The fulcrum to answering it all hinges on the $1,000,000 proverbial not NIL question above: how can – and how much do – Gardner and Vander Plas play together? Both appear to be more suited for the power forward or four spot traditionally at the college level, though they go about it a little differently. Gardner has a quick baseline step in the post and shoots well around the mid-range, which compensates for his limited size against ACC competition. Vander Plas uses more angles and fakes and steps out to the 3-point line with a lot more volume. He also has a little more height.

Neither seem like they could defend ACC wings on a regular,