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It Might Be A Good Idea To Consider Virginia’s Defense Next Year

It’s always good under Tony Bennett, but next year it could be lethal.

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ACC Basketball Tournament - Championship
De’Andre Hunter and Virginia should have a lethal defense next season, even by Virginia’s recent standards.
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Now that all the snickering about Virginia’s historic NCAA loss to UMBC is over, let’s consider where the Wahoos will be next fall because it could be pretty sobering for the rest of the ACC.

First the backcourt is back and Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome will both be juniors.

Second, Jack Salt and DeAndre Hunter are both back. And third, Jay Huff and Mamade Diakite are both a year older and a year more physically mature.

We don’t know much yet about rising sophomores Francesco Badocchi and Marco Anthony and even less about incoming freshmen Francisco Caffaro (7-0) out of Argentina, or Kody Stattman (6-6) out of Australia, or LA’s Kihei Clark (5-9), but coach Tony Bennett has certainly proved adept at finding his kind of guys and we’re sure he has again.

Virginia does lose Isaiah Wilkins, which hurts, and Nigel Johnson, which isn’t a big deal.

Wilkins was a hugely useful defender for Bennett and he’ll be tough to replace. However, Hunter is far more gifted physically and should pick up a lot of what Wilkins handled.

But let’s consider something key about next year’s team.

Between Hunter, Diakite and the 7-1 Huff, all of whom should be able to defend the rim, Virginia should be able to nearly shut down the inside completely - and that’s not counting muscle boy Salt, who is a tremendous defender himself although no shot blocker.

Point is, even before we know anything much about the freshmen and sophomores, Hunter excluded, Virginia’s interior defense has the potential to be absolutely brutal. We expect Diakite to advance significantly and if Huff gets anywhere near his potential he’ll be a pain too. It’s never fun playing UVA but next season could be far more difficult than usual.

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