Is UVa. ready for #14 VCU?

The short answer: Yes, #25 UVa. is ready for #14 VCU, with the Rams coming to town Tuesday night for a hellacious early-season non-conference matchup.

uva-logo-new2The ‘Hoos are three-point favorites, basically pick ‘em on a neutral court. Which is a sign that Virginia basketball has come a long way, to a point that coach Tony Bennett has had to deal with some intense preseason hype with the media picking his team to finish fourth in the rugged ACC, and the fan base dreaming big, past an NCAA Tournament bid to a Sweet 16, Final Four and beyond.

Bennett did his best to tamp down expectations following a lackluster 61-41 win over JMU in the Cavs’ season opener Friday night.

“We’re not as good as you guys are saying, all the people are this and that. We’ve got work to do,” Bennett said. “We’ve got a chance collectively to be good. I believe that. But all this hype and all this stuff, you can’t just show up and expect it to happen every time. We’ve got to get better.

“I know our team’s at. Our players know where our team’s at. We know what we can do when we play well. But reality is that when you don’t, you’re very susceptible,” Bennett said.

Bennett is still working at setting his rotation – with sophomore Malcolm Brogdon getting the start at point guard after missing all of the 2012-2013 season due to a foot injury, joining All-ACC performer Joe Harris, a senior, and sophomore Justin Anderson in the backcourt, and senior Akil Mitchell and South Carolina transfer Anthony Gill getting the start in the post.

Freshman London Perrantes logged 25 backcourt minutes off the bench, with sophomores Mike Tobey and Evan Nolte and junior Darion Atkins, at 100 percent after playing most of the way in 2012-2013 with an injury, also getting significant time.

The frontcourt may be the strong suit for Bennett’s squad this year. Mitchell, coming off a career year, averaging 13.1 points and a team-high 8.9 rebounds per game in 2012-2013, is no longer the only option in the post with the talented Gill, who averaged 7.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per game as a freshman at South Carolina in 2011-2012 and led Virginia with 13 points in the opener with JMU last week.

Tobey and Atkins, who pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds against JMU, are capable of carrying the load should either of the starters get in foul trouble.

“That is one of our strengths. You look at those four guys that I’m playing in those frontcourt spots, they’re all different. Three of them are very lively and aggressive, and then you’ve got Mike, who’s got the size and actually does go to the offensive glass,” Bennett said. “If you’re not going to be a lights-out shooting team, if you’re at times going to look rugged and crude, well, get on the glass and get second-chance points.”

“We have some weapons inside, guys can that get on the glass, whether they turn and face or score back to the basket,” Bennett said.





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