Who is the real Virginia men’s basketball team?
It was a wild week for the Cavaliers (1-1, 0-0 ACC) at Mohegan Sun, where they played two games over their stay in Uncasville, Conn. Virginia looked brilliant on Wednesday against Towson (0-3, 0-0 CAA), winning 89-54. It seemed as if all the offensive woes of last season had gone away, and the two transfers — senior forward Sam Hauser and junior guard Trey Murphy — both lit up the scoreboard, especially from deep. And then on Friday, it seemed the squad was back to square one, losing 61-60 to San Francisco (2-2, 0-0 WCC). Virginia shot just 41 percent from the floor, and the new transfers were practically invisible for much of the game. It is very early in the season, and perhaps the excellent three-point shooting in the first game was a bit of fool’s gold. But the Cavaliers leave their first week of games with more questions than answers as to what type of team they really are.
It will be interesting to see how Coach Tony Bennett tightens the rotation
Going into the season, there were a few questions about how Bennett would handle who plays, and the rotation got only messier when it was announced that Murphy obtained immediate eligibility on Tuesday. A combination of transfers, redshirts and a talented freshman class made for a crowded bench, with minutes few and far between. So it was not surprising that all 13 scholarship players got playing time at some point during the week, although only 10 saw the floor for significant minutes. Bennett usually only goes with an eight-man rotation, however, so cuts to playing time will be expected for a few players. But who will it be? Will it be sophomore guard Casey Morsell, who is arguably the team’s best defender, but saw his minutes decrease against San Francisco? Will it be junior guard Kody Stattmann, who is a program player but was projected to be the odd man out coming into the season? It is too early to tell, but hopefully answers will come before conference play begins.
Reece Beekman will be a star
One of the few bright spots from Friday’s loss was the play of freshman point guard Reece Beekman. Although not the highest rated of the freshman class coming into college, rumors around the program hinted that he would be the best in this upcoming season. Well, so far, Beekman has exceeded any and all expectations. While still learning on defense, he injected life into a down Cavalier offense, scoring 11 points on the day, which tied for first on the team. In addition he played a lot of minutes, which is relatively uncommon for freshmen in Bennett-coached teams. It does bring up questions, though — a recurring theme for the first week of hoops. How often will Bennett play Beekman and junior guard Kihei Clark together? Does he sacrifice offense in Beekman for defense in Morsell? These are questions that are likely to be answered situationally, but one thing is clear — Beekman will be a great player for the Cavaliers.
Virginia Athletics has done extremely well with COVID-19 protocols
Unfortunately, the matchup between Virginia and Florida State that was supposed to be Saturday was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns within the Seminoles program. The Cavaliers were particularly upset with the cancellation, as the news came just hours before kickoff when the team was already in Tallahassee, Fla. So in light of that, it should be noted that while the Cavaliers’ football team has had three games rescheduled, none of them were due to issues on the side of the team in Charlottesville. In fact, not a single student-athlete at Virginia has tested positive in over two weeks. That is a testament not only to the football team and its staff, but to Virginia Athletics as a whole. Everyone should be thoroughly impressed with how well each and every season has gone for the Cavaliers so far in 2020.
The losses from last season show early for women’s basketball
Women’s basketball (0-2, 0-0 ACC) also started its season this week, losing to Central Florida (1-0, 0-0 AAC) on Wednesday and East Carolina (1-1, 0-0 AAC) on Sunday. It is a new look for the Cavaliers this season, as they lost three very important seniors from last year. WNBA draft pick Jocelyn Willoughby and Lisa Jablonowski each started all 30 games for Virginia, and Dominique Toussaint also played a critical role for the Cavaliers a year ago. This resulted in a very inexperienced lineup for Virginia Sunday, with three of their five players taking the floor having only a combined one start in their Virginia careers. It is early in the season, and players — sophomore forward Meg Jefferson in particular — have made noticeable improvements from last season. But based on the first two games, it may be a long season ahead for the Cavaliers.