CD Sports Roundtable: Reminiscing and looking forward

Discussing memorable games from past, best teams and players for this year

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Sophomore guard De'Andre Hunter may be poised for a big season.

Richard Dizon | Cavalier Daily

What was your most memorable game from Virginia sports last season?

Alec Dougherty, Editor: Virginia basketball’s 65-63 victory at No. 4 Duke last season was the biggest statement win of the season, silencing any doubts that the Cavaliers were national title contenders. The Cavaliers completely shut down the Blue Devils’ offense in the first half, but a big comeback brought the game neck-and-neck down to the wire. An unforgettable deep three-pointer by Virginia sophomore guard Ty Jerome sealed the win, as the Cavaliers outlasted a 30-point performance from Duke freshman forward Marvin Bagley III. It was a thrilling win that put Virginia in the driver’s seat towards winning the ACC. 

Emma D’Arpino, Senior Associate Editor: When men’s basketball beat North Carolina in the ACC Tournament Final, it was one of the highlights of the season. The Cavaliers had dominated the regular season and to see them take down the Tar Heels specifically, a team that ended Virginia’s conference tournament hopes twice in the last three years, made it even better. Senior captains Devon Hall and Isaiah Wilkins deserved to raise a trophy that season, and while it wasn’t a National Championship, it was still an incredible celebration to witness. 

Zach Zamoff, Senior Associate Editor: While Virginia basketball’s buzzer-beater victory over Louisville that kept the Cavaliers at No. 1 in the nation was very memorable, it has to come second to Virginia football’s miraculous, rain-soaked win over Georgia Tech at Scott Stadium to earn bowl eligibility for the first time since 2011. After a hot start that saw Virginia 5-1 and on the edge of the Top 25, the Cavaliers cooled off with two deflating back-to-back losses to Boston College and Pittsburgh. Virginia bounced back against Georgia Tech in decisive fashion, coming out on top in a thriller against the Yellow Jackets, 40-36. After an even first half, the Cavaliers went down two touchdowns after a quick Georgia Tech touchdown and a Cavaliers turnover that led to more points for the Yellow Jackets. But Virginia didn’t give in, scoring two touchdowns to bring the score to 28. The Cavaliers won the upper hand in a shootout to close the game, with a touchdown catch by senior wide receiver Andre Levrone that brought Virginia back to the postseason.

Which Cavalier athlete are you most excited to watch this year?

AD: The insertion of transfer quarterback Bryce Perkins into a starting role will give the Virginia offense an exciting new look. The Cavaliers’ last several starting quarterbacks have lacked game-changing running ability, and Perkins comes in with his legs as his biggest asset. Coach Bronco Mendenhall could look to shift his offense into a more explosive form, in which bruising runs from Perkins gives the quarterback space to take deep shots through the air. 

ED: Last season, Mamadi Diakite began to show his potential. He has a ton of athleticism and he easily become a fan favorite at JPJ. Diakite’s sophomore season not only showed improvement from his first year, but it showed improvement throughout the season itself. So, I think it’ll be really exciting to see the strides he’s made during the offseason. I’m especially looking forward to seeing if he can develop as a consistent inside scorer and if he can show some more disciple and comfort on defense. 

ZZ: Sophomore forward De’Andre Hunter is going to be electric this year. After an explosive first year that drew interest from NBA scouts, the ACC Sixth Man of the Year is only going to get better. Returning from a wrist injury that kept him out of the NCAA Tournament, forcing him to watch hopelessly on the sidelines as Virginia fell to UMBC, Hunter is going to be hungry this year. The most versatile player on the Cavaliers, Hunter’s lockdown defense and clutch playmaking single handedly gifted Virginia multiple wins. His buzzer-beater against Louisville was incredible, but it was his consistently solid play and outstanding hustle that anchored the Cavaliers this past year. With the defense of forward Isaiah Wilkins gone and the steady scoring and leadership of guard Devon Hall off to the NBA, Hunter will have to step up in his sophomore campaign. Virginia basketball will go as far in 2018-19 as De’Andre Hunter takes it.

What team is poised to enjoy a breakout season?

AD: In her last season at the helm before retiring for personal reasons, Coach Joanne Boyle set up the women’s basketball team for future success with a big ACC winning streak and an exciting upset victory in the NCAA Tournament. New Coach Tina Thompson brings legendary playing experience to the fold to complement a wealth of returning talent to work with. Junior guards Dominique Toussaint and Jocelyn Willoughby bring a strong scoring backcourt presence, while 6-foot-9 center Felicia Aiyeotan will look to take another step in developing as a rim protector. If Thompson can harness this talent, a return trip to the Big Dance seems likely.

ED: Women’s soccer has the potential to put together a really strong season. The Cavaliers haven’t advanced to the final of the National Championship in 4 years, but, this year, they could definitely make a deep run in the tournament. Virginia played a lot of top teams during their spring schedule, which should serve them well for their always challenging ACC schedule. Additionally, they have yet another strong recruiting class coming in and they return a great deal of talent from last year after only losing two starters to graduation. Among such returning talented players are sophomore midfielder Taryn Torres — who tied for the most goals scored by a Cavalier last year — junior forward Taylor Ziemer, senior midfielder Betsy Brandon, junior defender Phoebe McClernon and sophomore goalkeeper Laurel Ivory.  

ZZ: Men’s lacrosse had somewhat of a breakout season last year as the Cavaliers returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2015, but are poised to officially return to dominance this year, after an underwhelming first-round NCAA tournament exit brought a strong season to the close. The Cavaliers are returning almost all of their star players, in addition to a strong recruiting class coming in. Virginia was hurt by a season-ending injury to now-senior midfielder and captain Ryan Conrad this year, and he will be back determined to win in his senior year. In addition, top scorers and all-American juniors attackman Michael Kraus and midfielder Dox Aitken will return to terrorize opponents with their dizzying athleticism and skill, as well as sophomore attackman Ian Laviano. Virginia has progressively improved every year in Coach Lars Tiffany’s system, and this year will see the Cavaliers find postseason success.

What team has the best chance of raising a conference or national title?

AD: Despite the way things ended last season for men’s basketball, Coach Tony Bennett has one of his most talented teams ever in front of him this coming season. Sophomore forward De’Andre Hunter passed up a potential first-round selection in the NBA Draft to return and chase a title, and his versatility on both ends of the floor can carry the Cavaliers deep into March. Junior guards Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome will return as marksman from beyond the arc, and senior center Jack Salt will anchor a steller interior defense. One wildcard that could push Virginia deeper into the contender conversation is whether transfer forward Braxton Key from Alabama is cleared to play — the team reportedly asked for a waiver for immediately eligibility — as he would give them another major inside scoring outlet. Whether or not that pans out, the Cavaliers will be hungry for vengeance, and Bennett will be eager to cash in with a talented and experienced starting five.   

ED: I agree that men’s basketball has a great chance to win a National Championship. In additional to the talent that they return, especially De’Andre Hunter, the mental maturity of this team should serve them well. They know what it’s like to win — just look at last year’s record and ACC Tournament performance — and they also know what it’s like to suffer a crushing loss, as exemplified by last year’s early NCAA Tournament exit. I think this team will be able to utilize those highs and lows from last year to grow and to make themselves a really strong and competitive team. 

ZZ: Men’s basketball is in good position to have a stellar season and win another conference title and have a chance at a national title. Although Virginia lost two great players and leaders in Hall and Wilkins, the Cavaliers have plenty of great players returning, and they will step up to fill the void left by the graduating seniors. The deadly duo of junior guards Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy provides a lethal scoring punch, and Hunter’s game-changing athleticism will keep Virginia in all games. Senior Jack Salt adds great leadership and stout defense, and junior Mamadi Diakite’s offensive game continues to develop. Sophomore forward Jay Huff and sophomore guard Marco Anthony should provide good energy and scoring off the bench. A year after NCAA tournament humiliation, this could finally be the year for Virginia in the NCAA tournament, as the Cavaliers extend their college basketball dominance into March.

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