Secrets to the Cavs’ success?
It’s no secret – maturity, and flat-out better play
Story by Chris Graham
The ACC standings on the TV screen at the end of the UVa.-Miami said a lot. You had defending national champion North Carolina down among those with two losses after a 73-71 loss at home to Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech and Miami are both in the multiple-loss group after hot starts. Even highly regarded Georgia Tech, Duke and Clemson are one-loss teams heading into week two of the conference season.
Sitting alone at the top of the most storied league in college basketball is little ol’ Virginia, picked to finish 12th and dead last in the ACC preseason by the writers – and honestly, if they could have gotten away with it, the writers would have put the Cavs 13th or lower, considering their 10-18 finish last season, and the jettisoning of ties with former coach Dave Leitao in favor of the young Tony Bennett.
Ten wins were supposed to be a high-water mark for the ‘Hoos, who with their 75-57 over Miami on Saturday night posted their 11th win of the young season, and sit at 3-0 in conference play heading into a nonconference tilt tonight with UNC-Wilmington.
Bennett told reporters in his weekly teleconference today that at least some of the credit is due his predecessor. “I said it early on, that’s a credit to Coach Leitao. He saw something early on in a lot of these young men, he and his staff, when he recruited them,” said Bennett, whose 11-4 Cavs still aren’t getting any Top 25 love despite being at the top of a conference that features four teams (Duke, Clemson, Georgia Tech and UNC) in the Top 25.
That they’re even within hailing distance of a Top 25 spot this early into the Bennett Era is remarkable given how empty the cupboard was supposed to be post-Leitao.
The secrets to the early success: cutting down on turnovers – from just over 15 a game a year ago to a shade over 10 a game in 2009-2010 – and much-improved shooting (a 10-point jump in shooting from behind the three-point arc, from 31.6 percent to 41.9 percent, and a five-point jump overall from the field, from 41.7 percent to 46.4 percent).
“Certain guys have gotten healthy. More practice time. I think just now we’ve been together longer, our staff and these young men,” Bennett said today, listing other possibilities as far as reasons for the sea change in Virginia basketball.
“Whether it’s a momentum win, we beat UAB at home, that certainly helped with our confidence, and then pulled out a game against N.C. State against some adversity, those things help, but you’re always quick to point out that it’s an ongoing thing, and you never assume too much,” Bennett said.
“I hope every practice, every game, it’s, Can we get better, can we improve? There’s breakdowns and there’s areas that we have to get better at. If they understand who they are as a team and not try to become someone different, regardless of the opponent that you’re playing, that will give us the best chance as a team to be competitive and successful,” Bennett said.