We are now only 40 days until the start of College Basketball and that means we are looking into some of the more clear NCAA Tournament level teams, as well as some teams that have a more legitimate chance of making the second weekend. Now moving on in the countdown, we continue with a team that may not be as elite as many people would think. Virginia has been one of the premier programs in College Basketball over this past decade, however, this Virginia team may be one that struggles greatly by comparison to their usual self, and a large part of that is due to their likely inability to score.
The Cavaliers will be reliant on an interesting backcourt, Kihei Clark provides stability and Beekman has some potential upside. Clark is small at 5’9 and that limits his overall ability, he’s a solid shooter, scorer, and is someone that is a good on-ball defender. Clark will provide a solid close to double-digit per game scorer, as well as someone that will facilitate the offense. Reece Beekman will likely start at the 2 but he’s someone that needs to take a big step forward. Beekman can run the point, knock down shots, and is a good defender but never really provided consistent scoring. The backcourt will be solid but there seems to be a ceiling to what they can provide.
Transfer additions Jayden Gardner and Armaan Franklin will be asked to provide scoring for this team. Gardner was a high-level scorer on a bad East Carolina team, while he showed that he can fill it up, how much of that was just empty stats, and not that he’s a high-level scorer, I question how will he adjust to playing against ACC competition? I think he’ll still lead this team in scoring but his numbers will take a hit. Armaan Franklin provides some outside shooting for this team, he’s someone that can knock down shots while being a good physical defender as well. That duo of transfers is at least a solid duo but neither necessarily stand out as being what is needed to ultimately help this team achieve high levels of success.
Up front, there are some question marks of who will replace Jay Huff up front. Francisco Caffaro brings in the most experience and is probably who will likely start. Caffaro is a 7’0 powerful big man who has shown an ability to score inside, rebound and defend, but he has not played enough minutes for us to gauge how good he is. Kadin Shedrick also has played limited minutes as well, he may have more upside than Caffaro but hasn’t shown it against high-major competition. It is hard to know exactly what to expect out of those two, but in a Tony Bennett system, they will have to be good at rebounding, defending, and being able to score inside.
Off the bench, Taine Murray will provide some shooting, as a freshman he could be inconsistent but with this team, any shooting pop he can provide would be important. Carson McCorkle will run some point guard for this team in a bench role but don’t expect him to see more than 10-15 minutes per game. Kody Slattman played limited minutes in his career thus but might need to for the team to have success.
Tony Bennett has established himself as one of the premier coaches in College Basketball, and that should not go without saying. Bennett has always put together a great defense and should do so again this season, while he gets the best out of his players. All those reasons are why this Virginia team is on this countdown in the first place.
Kihei Clark is a great role player, put him next to a couple of other good pieces and he will help that team get better, but he’s no star and shouldn’t be relied upon to be one. Jayden Gardner has been a good scorer but he primarily does it inside the arc, while Armaan Franklin isn’t a star either. Sure Reece Beekman could take a major step forward, and Taine Murray could be key offensive threats but that doesn’t seem likely. Look for this team to continue to be a Top-10 defensive team in the sport, as you would expect with any Tony Bennett team, however, offensively I think they ultimately just end up scoring enough points to secure a Tournament bid and that is really it. I don’t expect them to be anything resembling a Top-25 team and they certainly won’t contend for an ACC title either.
PG: Kihei Clark
SG: Reece Beekman
SF: Armaan Franklin
PF: Jayden Gardner
C: Francisco Caffaro
B1: Taine Murray
B2: Kadin Shedrick
B3: Carson McCorkle
B4: Kody Slattman