For the first time since 1982, the University of Virginia men’s basketball team has been tapped as the preseason favorite to win the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Cavaliers ended last season on an eight-game winning streak but did not get a chance to defend their 2019 national title after conference and national collegiate basketball tournaments around the country were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
NCCA hoops fans will not have to wait long now however as the NCAA regular season officially tips off on November 25.
The Cavaliers come into the season ranked fourth in the Associated Press Preseason Top 25 poll.
ACC members Duke checked in at No. 9 in the poll while North Carolina is No. 16 and Florida State is No. 21.
Mark Few’s Gonzaga squad earned the the No. 1 spot followed by Baylor and Villanova.
The Cavaliers will be a much different team this year without forwards Mamadi Diakite and Braxton Key but expectations are high with point guard Kihei Clark and 7-1 center Jay Huff returning to the fold. Thomas Wodentnasae, who shot the ball extremely well in the second half of last season, returns as does Casey Morsell, Francisco Caffaro and Kody Stattman.
Redshirt senior Sam Hauser, a transfer from Marquette, will be a key player for Coach Tony Bennett this year and should be able to extend opponents’ defenses with his outstanding range from downtown.
Virginia will open the season on November 25 against Maine in Uncasville, Connecticut before playing Florida in a key non-conference contest two days later at the same location.
The Cavs will play their home opener against Saint Francis on December 1.
One highlight of the early season schedule is a game against UVA arch-nemesis Michigan State at home on December 9 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Virginia will open ACC play on December 16 at Wake Forest.
Another highlight on the schedule includes a contest against No. 3 Villanova to end the non-conference portion of the schedule at Madison Square Garden.
The Hoos will have a tough second half to the conference schedule schedule playing North Carolina, Duke, Florida State and Louisville four times in eight games.
Virginia Coach Tony Bennett told the media that he is still looking for his team to gel defensively before the season gets going.
“They have not shown me up to this point that we can win games with our defense yet,” he said. “And trust me, that’s a point of emphasis.”
Congratulations to Dustin Justin on winning the 2020 Masters.
In a year when everything has been turned upside down, the star from Myrtle Beach, SC was simply sensational last week shooting a Masters’ record 20-under-par to capture his second major championship and first green jacket.
Augusta was as beautiful as always, even in November, and the stars will not have to wait long to return to the hallowed ground as the 2021 tournament is scheduled to be played at its typical time in April.
I can’t wait!