It was a relatively empty week for Virginia Athletics as only three games were played. The football team lost to Virginia Tech Saturday, and women’s basketball continued its winless season with two losses, one against Clemson and the other against Florida State. With that being said, it was still an eventful few days news-wise. Let’s get into a few takeaways from the week of Dec. 7.
All of Virginia football’s problems from throughout the season resurfaced for one game
Well, that was extremely disappointing — the Cavaliers (5-5, 4-5 ACC) lost to Virginia Tech (5-6, 5-5 ACC) 33-15 Saturday. The Commonwealth Cup was a disaster from the start for Virginia, as the Hokies jumped out to a 27-7 lead in the first half and never looked back. All of the Cavaliers’ problems that had popped up during the season were on display in the game. The Virginia secondary was again brutalized at times, notably giving up a 60-yard touchdown at the end of the second quarter. Sophomore quarterback Brennan Armstrong’s accuracy issues shined again, as he threw a terrible second-half interception right when the Cavaliers were surging. The defensive line showed its lack of depth, allowing over 250 rushing yards to Virginia Tech. And finally, the offensive play calling left a lot to be desired, choosing to hand the ball off to running backs just six times against a Hokie defense that had been gashed on the ground in prior games. All of those miscues added up to a game that felt out of hand before the first half even ended. There is no sugarcoating it — it was a disappointing end to an overall promising season.
It is perfectly okay for the football team to choose to not play in a bowl game
Soon after the game against Virginia Tech, Coach Bronco Mendenhall announced that Virginia would forgo any invitations to play in a bowl game — a decision made by the players. The Cavaliers are not the first team to do this, as both Boston College and Pittsburgh have also announced the conclusions of their seasons. No one should be frustrated by this. These student-athletes have gone an extended period of time without spending meaningful time with their families and friends and haven’t been able to leave Charlottesville for personal reasons for months. It is completely understandable for them not to want to play a bowl game that frankly will have less meaning than ever. Virginia football should be applauded for how well the team has done in 2020, both on and off the field. Very few college football teams have had zero games canceled because of their own COVID-19 issues, and Virginia was one of them. Even if the season did not end with a win like many had hoped, it was still a successful year overall, and the team does not need a victory in a minor bowl in front of 100 people to show it.
It should not be a negative mark on the men’s basketball program to pause activities
Virginia fans were met with disappointing news Dec. 18 when the Cavaliers’ home game against Michigan State — scheduled for Dec. 19 — had been postponed. The next day, Virginia basketball announced that it would be pausing team-related activities for an undisclosed period of time due to COVID-19 issues. While not ideal, the situation was inevitable. College sports are trying to play through a pandemic that has spread throughout the country, especially as of late. Without a bubble system — like the one the NBA established for the 2020 playoffs — traveling teams are more likely to come in contact with coronavirus than most Americans and Virginia has already played twice away from Charlottesville this season. This is not a problem unique to the Cavaliers either. The top two teams in the country — No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 Baylor — have both halted team activities recently along with many other programs across the country. Clearly, the entire college basketball world is struggling to grapple with the pandemic and Virginia should not be singled out. Instead, the best thing fans can do right now is to wish whichever Virginia players that have contracted coronavirus a quick and complete recovery.
ACC men’s basketball is deeper throughout, but worse at the top
With Virginia men’s basketball on pause, let’s take a look at how the rest of the ACC is doing. The Big Ten won the Big Ten-ACC Challenge for the second year in a row, albeit without three games being played. But the most notable thing that happened was how thoroughly the best teams from the Big Ten conference — Illinois and Iowa — beat North Carolina and Duke. Both Big Ten teams looked and played like the better teams throughout their Dec. 8 games, and the ACC was left wondering who its best team even was. It was not all bad for the ACC, however. The conference overall is much improved from last season, which was universally seen as a down year. Teams like Clemson, Miami and Louisville make up a strong middle core that the conference lacked last season. Look for there to be a very competitive conference slate in 2020-21.
Virginia women’s basketball is severely low on players
The Cavaliers (0-5, 0-2 ACC) lost twice again this week, falling to Clemson (6-1, 1-1 ACC) and Florida State (2-0, 1-0 ACC). The losses were somewhat expected due to the major depth issues the team is currently facing. As a result of injuries, Virginia only had seven players — out of its normal 13-player roster — travel to Tallahassee for the game against the Seminoles. That is simply a recipe for disaster, especially in high-level women’s basketball. The Cavaliers played well against Florida State, leading by three early in the third quarter before the Seminoles pulled away for a 69-51 victory. While the beginning for the 2020-21 season has been rough, the play of sophomore guard Amandine Toi — who has been averaging 14 points per game — has been a bright spot. However, Virginia needs more than Toi to win games and the Cavaliers will likely be extremely happy when more players come back healthy and ready to compete.