The Cavalier Daily
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Like Bodo's, Virginia hoops still is under construction

Basketball fever has descended upon the Charlottesville area yet again.

Local fans have high hopes for the men's squad, and why not? They boast one of the finest recruiting classes in the nation, have almost everyone back from last year and have enough depth to make Pete Gillen's frenzied, pressing strategy work, and work for all 40 minutes of the game.

Hoops fanatics at the University know all about Chris Williams, Donald Hand, Majestic Mapp and the rest. They know their team is good, and more importantly, that it's underrated. The media that attended Operation Basketball in October predicted the Cavs to finish seventh in the Conference this month?

Poppycock, they say! Reigning Rookie of the Year Chris Williams pulls in less votes for Player of the Year than the Reform Party will next November?

A massive oversight, they cry! Surely, Pete Gillen can weld this group of extremely talented young men into a team that not only will contend for the ACC title, but win ... right?

Not so fast. Before Cavalier fans crown this Virginia squad as the next coming of Duke itself, it's important to remember that just like a new basketball stadium, constructing a championship-caliber team doesn't happen overnight.

Last October, when I went to Operation Basketball in Charlotte, Pete Gillen told me that rebuilding the House that Jeff Jones Left was a two-year process. Yes, the Cavs look much better than they did last year. Bolstering your roster from six scholarship players to 12 tends to have that effect.

Yes, Virginia fans have high hopes for the Cavaliers this year. Why not?

Fans should have lofty hopes for their team each season, so long as those hopes are attainable. For example, I'm a Bears fan, but I don't plan on the Monsters of the Midway returning to the Super Bowl anytime soon.

The Cavs should be better this season; another 4-12 Conference campaign would be a major disappointment. But it's important to keep everything in perspective.

Take the first years and transfer student Stephane Dondon, for example. No one questions their athleticism or talent. But the ACC is a tough place to play, especially for a rookie. Adam Hall had an up-and-down 1998-99 season, and while Williams had the best year of any freshman in the Conference, Big Smooth started to run out of gas in the final weeks, as indicated by his descent in the list of the top scorers in the ACC.

Virginia has the talent, but it needs chemistry, which is something that comes only with time. Don't be surprised if the Cavs go 4-4 or 3-5, maybe even 2-6, during their first run through the Conference opposition.

But after they adjust, maybe Virginia will go 6-2 or 7-1, maybe even 8-0, to round out the regular season.

So what does all this add up to? Finishing above Florida State and Clemson should be expected. I think the Cavs will finish fifth or fourth in the ACC, with an outside shot at third. I also think Virginia will, or can, beat every other team in the Conference at least once this season.

So if you see Mapp turn the ball over on a bad pass this year, or see Roger Mason shoot an air ball, relax. They're just first years. And this team has plenty of time to gel.


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Today, we sit down with both the president and treasurer of the Virginia women's club basketball team to discuss everything from making free throws to recent increased viewership in women's basketball.