Men’s basketball: Looking ahead to ACC play

Virginia will play another tough ACC schedule this season

sp-MBBallBennett-CaCollins

Virginia Coach Tony Bennett has the team poised for success in a tough ACC slate.

Callie Collins | Cavalier Daily

After another dominant performance Saturday afternoon against Lehigh, the No. 18 Virginia men’s basketball team is sitting at a stellar 8-0 three weeks into the season. With a tough matchup looming against No. 19 West Virginia Tuesday night, Virginia (8-0, 0-0 ACC) is gearing up for their biggest test of the season. 

Virginia has four remaining games against nonconference foes before ACC play kicks off. It will be another tough conference schedule for the Cavaliers as the ACC remains one of the best — if not the best — conference in college basketball. With six teams — No. 1 Duke, No. 5 Notre Dame, No. 10 Miami, No. 13 North Carolina, No. 17 Louisville and Virginia — in the AP Top 25 Poll right now, Virginia is going to have to be at its best to have a shot at winning the ACC Regular Season Title like it has in two of the last four seasons. 

The Cavaliers entered the season with a lot of uncertainty, having lost their point guard and leader London Perrantes to graduation last May. However, eight games in, it has become clearer who the new go-to scorers are. Sophomore guard Kyle Guy and senior guard Devon Hall have stepped up and become the team’s go-to scorers, averaging 16.6 points per game and 11.8 points per game, respectively.

Having entered the month of December with ACC play looming ahead, here is a look at some key games in the upcoming months as Virginia competes for a spot at the top of the ACC. 

Jan. 3 at Virginia Tech 

With Virginia Tech’s men’s basketball program on the rise thanks to Coach Buzz Williams, the Hokies present a clear threat to the Cavaliers in the battle for the title of best college basketball team in the state. Some even believe that Virginia Tech has already begun the process of surpassing Virginia — if they haven’t already. The Cavaliers will have a chance to shut any of those talks down if they can head into Blacksburg and take down the Hokies in front of their fans and on their court. Virginia may not have the star power it had in previous seasons, with players like Joe Harris, Justin Anderson, Malcolm Brogdon and London Perrantes moving on to the NBA, but they still have the same system and are still producing wins at a high level with their stifling pack-line defense. A win against a rising in-state rival would show the nation that Virginia is still the class of its state.  

Jan. 6 vs. North Carolina 

The Tar Heels are the defending national champions. Despite losing some key pieces in Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks, North Carolina still has a ton of firepower in senior guard Joel Berry II and junior forward Luke Maye. Maye is currently averaging a stellar 20.6 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game. Coach Roy Williams has a done a good job with his team, and the Tar Heels currently sit at No. 13 in the AP Top 25 Poll. Virginia has shown that with its defense, it can beat a Roy Williams team, as it did last February in a 53-43 win over then No. 5 North Carolina. With many fans and pundits calling Virginia’s game too reliant on defense and lacking in great offense, this is a prime opportunity to show that consistency against elite competition can be sustained with a defense-heavy philosophy. The matchup also provides an opportunity to further Virginia’s name into the national conversation of best teams in the country, with a win against a Blue Blood college basketball program. 

Jan. 27 at Duke

Duke is currently the No. 1 team in the country with a 10-0 record. The Blue Devils also boast arguably the best player in college basketball in freshman forward Marvin Bagley III, who is averaging 22 points per game and 11.2 rebounds per game. The Coach Mike Krzyzewski-led Blue Devils are looking to fulfill preseason expectations that they have as good of a shot as anybody of winning the NCAA Title. With wins over No. 3 Michigan State and No. 6 Florida already in nonconference play, Duke looks like a juggernaut heading into December. This game will be a prime opportunity for Virginia to make an incredibly loud statement to the college basketball world, especially if it can pull out a win on the road at Cameron Indoor Stadium.  

With ACC play starting soon, Virginia still has a few weeks to continue to improve certain aspects of its game before a tough schedule begins. It will be interesting to see how Virginia fares in each of these three games and if it can continue the success that it’s enjoyed in ACC play the last several seasons. 

Correction: The game against Duke is Jan. 27 not Jan. 2. 

related stories