BLANK: Success won’t stop with Perrantes’ departure
Given the way the season ended for Virginia men’s basketball — the blowout loss to Florida in the tournament and the gradual fade down the stretch to the tune of a .500 record since February — it’s easy to feel down about the state of the team.
Losing senior guard London Perrantes only makes matters worse, as the team leader and fan-favorite was synonymous with the Virginia basketball’s recent run of success. While coach Tony Bennett rightfully receives the vast majority of the credit for turning around the program, the difference between before and after Perrantes arrived is stark.
Before Perrantes came to Virginia, Bennett’s teams went 76-53 (32-34 ACC) with no NCAA tournament wins. However, since Perrantes arrived in Charlottesville, the Cavaliers have gone 112-31 (56-16 ACC) with seven tournament wins and an ACC tournament championship. With Perrantes’ graduation, and the drop off in play towards the end, it seems as if Virginia’s recent stretch of success is in danger of coming to an end.
However, while Perrantes will certainly be missed, this team is primed for success going forward. In many ways, this was a rebuilding year — Virginia graduated nearly 59 percent of last year’s scoring, lost a key transfer for the year and integrated freshmen guards Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy, along with redshirt freshman forward Mamadi Diakite, into the rotation.
Next season, the Cavaliers only have to replace 19 percent of this season’s scoring and will likely have a minimum of four scholarship seniors to help them do so. This beats the past season, where Perrantes was the only scholarship senior. In a system as demanding and complex as Bennett’s, players with experience are crucial to the success of the program.
The crop of freshmen — who couldn’t quite bear the burden down the stretch — also show incredible promise. Guy’s three point shooting percentage of 49.5 percent hasn’t been matched by any recent Virginia guards, such as Perrantes, Malcolm Brogdon or Justin Anderson. Diakite’s defensive prowess is impressive as well, as he posted a block rate of 12 percent, which would have led the ACC by a wide margin if he had played enough minutes to qualify.
More help is on the way, too — Virginia will receive an influx of talent this offseason. Guard Deandre Hunter and sharpshooting big man Jay Huff will be ready to help the team after redshirting this past season. Additionally, the team will pick up wing Marco Anthony from Texas, who fits the mold of player fans envision in Bennett’s system at an athletic 6-foot-6 and has a similar build to Anderson and Brogdon.
This isn’t even considering the extra scholarship Bennett has at his disposal, potentially allowing for a graduate transfer to join the team. The cupboard is certainly not bare, and in terms of raw talent alone, next season’s team may well be the best Bennett has ever coached.
Additionally, if you believe the advanced metrics, this year’s team wasn’t far from success, either. Even the Cavaliers’ second-round exit in the tournament came against a team KenPom currently ranks as the No. 3 best team in the country. Their performance this season — which was supposed to be a rebuilding year — shows the team isn’t as far off from contending as one might be inclined to believe.
None of this is to say, however, that replacing Perrantes will be easy. Perrantes was a skilled shooter, an excellent distributor and ball handler and a consistently above-average defender. Simply, Perrantes will not be easily replaced — he is the first-ever Virginia player to win an NCAA tournament game in four-consecutive seasons and is the Cavaliers’ all-time leader in games started with 134.
Perrantes also had the year to help out his successor in Jerome, who along with rising senior Devon Hall, will be expected to man the point guard position in his absence.
“I don’t try to teach him how to be me,” Perrantes said about Jerome mid-season. “I just try to teach him what coach Bennett is looking for in the program.”
While Perrantes will be dearly missed, his departure doesn’t signal anything close to a death knell for the program. Thanks in no small part to his leadership, Bennett’s team is well positioned to build on Perrantes’ legacy — achieving new heights going forward.
Jake Blank is a Senior Associate Sports Editor for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @Jake_33.