Thank you Brian for joining us to discuss this Saturday's game (3pm), which involves two teams moving in opposite directions as quickly as a UVA football fan heads for the exits early in the second quarter of another home loss. UVA has found solid footing in the ACC schedule, while VT has struggled with injuries, inconsistency, shaky coaching, and internal strife. Brian, thank you so much for taking the time to do this. Let's begin.
GC: Looking over UVA's records since the early 1990s, it seems like the UVA coaches have had pockets of success throughout their tenures, but nobody is ever able to maintain excellence and take the UVA program to the next level. Jeff Jones, Pete Gillen, Dave Levitao all looked like they were on the verge of building something, before fading rapidly. Is there a common denominator here? Do you think Coach Tony Bennett will avoid the same fate?
STL: Fortunately for my psyche, but unfortunately for this Q and A, my Virginia fanhood began at the very tail end of Dave Leitao's tenure, so it's tough for me to attempt to speak to exactly what went wrong before that. But, suffice it to say, UVA basketball hasn't been able to win with any degree of consistency since Ralph Sampson.
However, Wahoo fans are almost universally optimistic about the future under Tony Bennett; not only have the past couple years been encouraging, but the years ahead look bright. Bennett doesn't need to be able to land 5-star recruits (though it would help); he coaches system teams and his system works. There's no evidence that he'll stop being able to recruit players that fit his scheme, and Bennett is a machine at putting out top-20 defenses. He's a perfect fit for the school, and now that the team is composed entirely of his recruits, we look to have a great shot at some sustained success. (In case you couldn't pick up on it, I am a huge Tony Bennett fan).
GC: So, what is keeping the UVA machine down in the rankings right now? The one 35 point loss to Tennessee? Wisconsin-Green Bay? The other three losses are elite level teams, with VCU, Wisconsin, and Duke. UVA is 39th (by votes) in the AP, and 31st (by votes) in the USA Today Coach's Poll. Considering RPI is presently #22, and the 'Hoos have eight money wins in their 14-5 record, how slighted does the UVA fan base feel right now?
STL: Receiving just one vote in the AP Poll was clearly a joke after the start we've had to conference play, especially considering our strong computer rankings (#13 in KenPom). I think the embarrassing Tennessee game has something to do with it, as do some of those early losses to VCU and Wisconsin. The national media was high on the Hoos in the preseason, UVA didn't meet expectations early on, and the voters are taking a while to give the team another chance.
Justin's biggest impact is on the defensive side of the ball, where he often takes on the opponent's best player, whether he's a point guard or a center (he held Alex Len to 9 points in College Park last year despite giving up 7 inches).
So, I think UVA doesn't grab a giant lead early, as we did against FSU (twice), Wake, and NC State. It may be closer to the UNC win, when the teams battled for the first 15 minutes, before the Hoos took control before halftime.