Note - a reader wrote to thank us for ranking State ahead of UVa. We
haven't. We write the previews based on how familiar we are with the schools in
question.Â When we're done, then we'll rank them.
The funny thing about Pete Gillen is he came to UVa after a tough year at
Providence.Â Well technically the funny thing is that he had a rough year
because as Duke fans learned in the NCAAs when we played Providence, this guy
can coach.Â UVa fans have learned that as well, as have other ACC fans.
Gillen has consistently upgraded the talent and athleticism at UVa, and
installed a fantastic running, pressing game which is really fun to watch. We
can apply a lot of words to UVa athletics over the years - stouthearted, brave,
toughminded, boring - but rarely has the term excitement come into play.Â
UVa is now an exciting team, and they've had a number of remarkable games in his
short tenure, not least of all nearly upsetting Final Four bound UNC with about
six walkons on the team.
Unfortunately for Gillen, though, his teams have also become known as being
centerless, and that is a real problem. They're very athletic, smart, run hard
as hell, but, well, they have been short.Â You can do a lot by running
faster than people, but you can't stop Brendan Haywood or Elton Brand under the
basket, and that's just life, there's no way around it.
On the bright side for Hoos fans, though, Gillen has built a team into which
he can eventually plug a center and more or less guarantee success, because this team is on the
verge of takeoff. The one down note is the ACL injury to Majestic Mapp, which
makes him highly questionable for the season.Â We like him a lot because a)
he's a good player, and b) he bought into UVa when it wasn't an easy sell.
But on the other hand, the Hoos get back Donald Hand, who is already one of
those players who seems like he's been around a lifetime. Isn't he gone yet?
Uh...no, apparently not.Â Adam Hall has also been scintillating at times,
and we were very impressed with Roger Mason, who pretty much came out of
nowhere. That also speaks well for Gillen's eye for talent, by the way.Â
And let's not forget Chris Williams. You can call him a guard or a forward, but
whatever you call him, the guy can play.
We were really looking forward to a Travis Watson/Jason Parker matchup.Â
Pity, really.Â That would have been super. Travis Watson is a tough, tough
kid and did a great job at center despite being 6-7
Stephane Dondon has also shown flashes, but not enough to
satisfy.Â Jason Rogers has a rep as being athletic, but didn't get it done
his freshman year.Â Other than freshman JC Mathis, about whom we know
little, that's about it up front, and that's a major problem for Virginia.Â
They will be able to run by a lot of teams, but when they can't, they're going
to have some very serious problems inside.Â They are avidly recruiting
DeSagana Diop, and other big men, and with the surrounding cast the next center
will have, he'd be foolish not to consider it strongly.
But we digress.
The situation for UVa is about the same as it was last season: they go 6-8,
-6-7 and 6-7 across the frontline, and that's on a good night. Travis Watson is a tough kid, but he's
undersized at center.Â Put him up against Haywood, Boozer, Jones, or
Allenspach, and he's in trouble.Â Not because of heart, though, but
Allenspach, for instance, is 7-1 and 275. You try banging against him in
It's going to hurt to lose Mapp, but the Wahoos have the players to run and
press, and they are all a year older and better. Size aside, they play solid
defense, so to us the season comes down to a couple of basic factors: 1) scoring
in transition: the size thing works their way when they are moving fast, and 2)
how well they shoot from the perimeter.Â If they are caught in a halfcourt
game, they won't win by pounding it inside.
Also worth mentioning: Josh Hare, the remarkable walk-on, has played well in
Mapp's absence. And definitely worth mentioning is the non-con schedule - they
do play Purdue in the ACC-Big 10/1 Challenge, and traditional rival Virginia
Tech, and also Tennessee in the Jimmy V Classic, but that's it.Â
Unfortunately it could trip them up at tourney time ifÂ they are a