Virginia Beat: The Consistent Inconsistency of Youth

One of my favorite sayings about UVA sports in general is that we can’t have nice things.  When the football team’s defense looks like it’ll be pretty stout next year, the team’s leader in sacks and tackles for loss (Chris Brathwaite) is booted from school, presumably for failing out.  (Presumably.  I don’t want to be accused of passing anything off as a fact.)

The basketball team is the same way.  We start the season with a pair of athletic, hyperactive power forwards the likes of which has probably never been seen in a UVA uniform, and then one develops shin splints and the other rolls his ankle and now I have to watch a basketball game holding my breath every time Akil Mitchell falls to the floor.  I don’t have to worry about Darion Atkins hurting himself during a game, because at the moment he’s not playing in them.  That’s just this season; I could go on in this vein in regards to the entire previous decade, but that would take ages.

Let’s just limit it to this year.  Atkins and Mitchell weren’t the first in the trainers’ room; they merely joined Jontel Evans and the redshirting Malcolm Brogdon.  These injuries – suffered in just the first half of the season alone – serve mainly to throw a chaotic monkey wrench into an already chaotic situation.  According to Ken Pomeroy, UVA is the 325th-most experienced team in the country this year – a number that fluctuates somewhat based on playing time, but not very far.  The loss of Brogdon, and his abilities at the point, has forced Tony Bennett to rely more heavily on freshman Teven Jones – and when Evans sat, it forced Bennett to start Jones.  Evan Nolte, another freshman, has also benefitted from the losses of first Brogdon, and then Atkins.  And yet another freshman (Mike Tobey) is the only real center on the team, and therefore sees regular time as well.  Evans is the only scholarship senior.

So it comes as no surprise that UVA has played with a maddening inconsistency destined to give the tournament selection committee absolute fits come March.  I don’t know what you do with a team that beat Wisconsin on the road and North Carolina at home, but can’t seem to figure out how to win on the road in the ACC nor beat a CAA team anywhere.  UVA’s effort on Saturday against Florida State was much more like the effort UVA fans hope to see if the NCAA tournament is to be in the Cavaliers’ future.  They took advantage of FSU’s own youthful inconsistency, shut down the Seminoles’ offense, and found a little of their own.  It makes one wonder where that shooting touch was in Winston-Salem.

The answer, no doubt, has to do with all those underclassmen.  True, not everyone who shot poorly in Winston-Salem and in Clemson was an underclassman, and Evans is a senior so his poor showing at Clemson has no youth-based excuse, but a basketball team is a complex machine.  And this one is full of inexperienced players and half-dented with injuries.  UVA fans rejoiced to see a whole-hog dismantling of Florida State, and will no doubt get their chances to rejoice again in the coming weeks.  There’s also no doubt that the inconsistency bug will bite again, of course when everyone least expects it.  That’s the kind of season UVA is in for, and the only guarantee anyone can give about the future for this bunch.


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.

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