Four Reasons Why You Should Not Be Disappointed With This UVa Basketball Team
Rather than dwell on the 26-point loss to the Florida Gators, here are four reasons why A) Virginia knew a run in the tournament was going to be an uphill battle, and B) why you should still be proud of this Virginia team, nonetheless.
1) Florida was the Match-Up Virginia Couldn’t Face.
Speedy guards and athletic big men punished the ‘Hoos all year, specifically against teams like Florida State and North Carolina State. Knowledgeable UVa supporters admitted all week leading to the game that it was going to be a tough contest to win because of Florida’s style of play. The Gators shoot threes well, defend with a purpose through full-court pressure, and wreak havoc on guards in the frontcourt; these were all things that had thwarted Virginia efforts in the past. Prudent followers could recognize this day was not progressing well when the ‘Hoos headed to the locker room down eight while the Gators had shot one of fifteen from behind the arc. It simply was Virginia’s most difficult match-up to prepare for, and it just happened to come in the most important game of the year.
2) Three Big Men were not going to lead Virginia to a Deep Tournament Run.
Obviously, Mike Scott was a huge part of the ‘Hoos squad all year long. However, Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins seeing big minutes in the deciding moments of UVa games was not something the fan base had expected from the beginning of the year. Look at multiple-championship-winning programs like UConn or UNC. These schools always boast depth in the frontcourt and strong bigs who can defend the rim. This lets a team be consistent; when shots on offense aren’t falling, these squads rely on the interior defense of forwards to keep the opposing score low and offensive rebounding to make up for the lack of points. Strong, athletic, and experienced bigs can turn even less-than-mediocre guard play into Ws in the results column.
In constrast to these teams, inconsistent play from Mitchell and Atkins put even more pressure on Scott to make plays and led to far too many second and third chance points for the Gators. Having come into the game with efforts of 37 minutes or more in the three prior games by Scott, the load was too much for Mike to carry the ‘Hoos past Florida. The inconsistent front court play led to bad fouls, faulty rebounding positions, and an inept ability to hedge Florida on pick and rolls. It is always tough to compete when that is the case.
3) Mike Scott and Sammy Zeglinski are two High-Class Student-Athletes.
Scott and Zeglinski led by example all year, and their work ethic made this team extremely watchable. They imposed their personalities on the squad, and with the coaching of Tony Bennett, built a squad that was oftentimes ranked throughout the year. As Zeglinski said in the press conference following the loss, “I’m just fortunate I had a chance to play for Coach Bennett and serve this team. It was tough to end this way but I liked what I was a part of.” Sammy and Mike were great leaders for the team and ambassadors for Virginia Basketball. If Jontel Evans shows half the character they displayed this year in his senior campaign, we can expect big things from the ‘Hoos in 2012-2013.
4) It was Truly a Fun Team to Follow.
Whether it was the close call at Cameron, or the larger-than-life atmosphere at JPJ for the UNC game, this ‘Hoos team made all of Charlottesville proud. A group that played stout defense, efficient offense, and stayed mild-tempered regardless of the situation always made them an enjoyable squad to watch and root for. It was incredible to see them develop across the season, and regardless of the sour note that ended the year, I will always keep fond memories of the 2011-2012 Virginia Cavaliers basketball team.
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