Virginia Beat: Punching a Dance Ticket

Akil Mitchell dunks on MVSU (photo courtesy TheSabre.com)

It’s one of the dreariest times of year for UVA sports: final exams break.  Darn rooting for a school that demands attention to the “student” side of “student-athlete.”  UVA’s hoops squad played its most recent game on Saturday and now fans face a dry stretch with no basketball to tide them over for another week and change.

But then, we do get a small break in the action to see where the team stands.  And a season which looked to be at a tipping point early on, and even earlier looked like a major uphill climb to achieve the successes of last season, suddenly looks full of promise.   And awfully similar to 2011. Last year at this time the Hoos were 9-1; this year, 8-2, and in both cases, a win against a quality Big Ten team in the rearview mirror.  Also in the rearview mirror: an ugly preseason tournament loss to a much worse team.  No doubt the Preseason NIT loss to 3-7 Delaware (which itself has lost quite a few games it shouldn’t, including, most recently, a home loss to Delaware State) is a blotch on UVA’s tournament resume.

No matter.  For one, the tournament committee usually lets it slide when you lose a game like that, early in the season, with a key injury (in UVA’s case, Jontel Evans) hampering your effort.  And the Hoos have probably earned a preliminary dance ticket by beating Tennessee, and even more impressively, Wisconsin on the road.  (The committee just loves it when you win in someone else’s gym.)  Both teams are strong contenders for the NCAA tournament themselves.

Those wins were part of the seven-game winning streak the Hoos currently ride, one which should extend to the beginning of the ACC season.  No real tests remain in the out-of-conference schedule, only win-column padding that the Hoos must be careful not to turn into stumbling blocks.  That won’t happen as long as the Hoos’ well-established commitment to defense remains strong; only half of UVA’s opponents this year have even reached 50 points, and the last two have been held under 40.

Could UVA lose its dance ticket along the way?  Of course; nothing that takes place in March is guaranteed in December.  Wisconsin could falter in the hypercompetitive Big Ten; Tennessee’s thin lineup might struggle in the SEC.  Both could find themselves with unmistakeable NIT resumes when the season is over, leaving some of the luster off of Virginia’s tourney resume.  And UVA probably needs 10 or 11 wins in the much-improved ACC portion of their schedule, where gimme wins are precious few for such a young Virginia squad.  But as things stand now, the Hoos would have a spot.  It’s their ACC competitors that must try and snatch it away, not the other way around.

 

Click here to sign up for a free InsideTheACC.com account, so you can comment on articles and post on our forums.

 


Brendan’s bio: I’m just this guy … this ordinary Virginia graduate and fan who woke up one day realizing his opinions on everything UVA could no longer be contained in one space. Thus was born From Old Virginia, a labor of love where you can find obsessive opinionating on Virginia football, basketball, lacrosse, baseball, and whatever else when the mood strikes. And if that’s still not enough for you, go to the Twitster and follow @MaizeNBlueWahoo for the dumb stuff that pops into my head when I’m watching the Hoos.

Follow Inside the ACC on Twitter at @InsideTheACC. Talk about ACC sports on the ITA Forums.

Leave a Reply