The Cavaliers are coming off of a season where they won the ACC regular season title, won the ACC Tournament title, and made it into the NCAA Tournament as the top overall seed. What happened after that was something of pure pain for Virginia, as the Cavaliers became the first 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament as they lost 74-54 to UMBC. This result put a huge damper to what was a great season, however, it does provide some motivation for this years team that looks to not only repeat as ACC Champions but also win a National Championship. The Cavaliers return Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy, who formed one of the best backcourts in the country. De’Andre Hunter also returns this season, he missed that game against UMBC last season and many feel had he played there would have been a different result in that game. Mamadi Diakite and Jack Salt return to form a good defensive frontcourt. The Cavaliers also add forward Braxton Key, who is an Alabama transfer who was granted a waiver this year to play immediately. They arguably have the best top-six in College Basketball, which should be a key component as they look to win the ACC and make a deep NCAA Tournament run.
The Cavaliers have one of the best one-two punches in the sport with Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy, who should continue to bring some great outside shooting to the table. Jerome doesn’t get as much praise as Guy, however, he is a better ball-handler, he can shoot at a high level, with no Devon Hall he should take over as the full-time point guard. Kyle Guy led the Cavaliers in scoring last year and he probably will continue to do so this year. Guy is an incredible three-point shooter, who can make shots while set or on the run, which makes him very dangerous. Marco Anthony looks to get more minutes this year off the bench, while freshmen Kihei Clark, Kody Slattmann, and Francesco Badocchi will all fight for minutes this season. The Cavaliers will be fine with Guy and Jerome, however, in some games, they will need one of the younger guys to step in and play minutes while they are out.
The Cavaliers return three good frontcourt players in De’Andre Hunter, Mamadi Diakite, and Jack Salt, while they add Alabama transfer Braxton Key. De’Andre Hunter is a combo forward who can play both the 3 and the 4, he is a great defender, he has guard-like skills, and he is a potential big-time scorer, he looks poised to have a breakout season, while he looks poised to become a potential lottery pick. Jack Salt is the teams center, he is a good shot-blocker, rebounder, and he can score inside. Mamadi Diakite is a four, who is long and athletic forward with a good wingspan, he should continue to be a great defender. Alabama transfer Braxton Key will likely step in as the teams sixth-man, he’s a good athlete who can make plays on offense while being a lockdown defender, he can play both the 3 and the 4. Jay Huff should play minutes in place of Jack Salt, while center Francisco Caffaro is a player who probably will red-shirt this season. The Cavaliers don’t have a great offense up front, however, with the number of lengthy forwards they have they should be able to lockdown teams on defense.
The Cavaliers have put together a non-conference schedule that will give them a few tough tests, however, they will not need to leave the East Coast, which should help them stay physically ready for ACC play. The Cavaliers will start the season with three straight home games before they will head to the Battle 4 Atlantis over the Thanksgiving week. In the Battle 4 Atlantis, they will play Middle Tennessee in the first round and they could play Butler, Wisconsin, or Florida later in the event depending upon some game results. On November 28th the Cavaliers will head on the road to play at Maryland in an ACC/ Big Ten Challenge game. The Cavaliers will also play at South Carolina on December 19th, which is the only other game they play away from Charlottesville. The Cavaliers will begin ACC play on January 5th with a home game against Florida State, their regular season will then wrap up on March 9th with a home game against Louisville. The ACC Tournament runs March 12th-16th, with the NCAA Tournament starting on March 19th.
What to expect this season
Virginia should continue to be really good on defense, as their defense will be tough for teams to attack against, however, I look for them to play quicker and better on the offensive end. The Cavaliers are always really good at the beginning of the season, which should continue this season as they look poised to enter into ACC play undefeated. The Cavaliers probably won’t go 17-1 in ACC play like last year, however, a 15-3 record is reasonable and would probably make them the outright ACC Champions. The Cavaliers will look to potentially win the ACC Tournament again, which could help them be a one seed in the NCAA Tournament. The redemption will take place in the tournament as they look poised to avoid early upsets while making it to the Final Four for the first time in Tony Bennett era. They also could win a National Championship which would surprise no one, as they have the talent to win it all.
PG: Ty Jerome
SG: Kyle Guy
SF: De’Andre Hunter
PF: Mamadi Diakite
C: Jack Salt
Key Reserves: Kihei Clark, Kody Slattmann, Marco Anthony, Francesco Badocchi, Braxton Key, Jay Huff