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Virginia basketball preview

Virginia 2011-2012 season: (22-10, 9-7 ACC)

Head coach: Tony Bennett

With the departure of star forward Mike Scott to the NBA, the Cavaliers lost one of the best players in the league and their go-to scorer, and the key issue facing this year’s team is finding a way to replace Scott’s offensive contributions. Despite the lack of proven performers on offense, expect Tony Bennett’s squad to again play stifling defense and grind out possessions each night as one of the slowest teams in the nation. The Cavaliers’ tournament dreams rest with a top-20 recruiting class headlined by Justin Anderson and Evan Nolte. Anderson, a dynamic 6-foot-6 wing, uses his tremendous athletic ability to attack the rim, and Nolte is a 6-foot-7 forward with range out to 25 feet, allowing him to stretch the defense and give the Cavaliers an outside threat. If this recruiting class is as good as advertised, that will take some pressure off of junior shooting guard Joe Harris, whose 11.8 points per game last season make him the leading returning scorer.

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One thing that needs to go right: Harris steps up as the primary offensive threat. The junior showed glimpses of star potential last season, and if he can join the ranks of the ACC’s top guards, Virginia has a strong change to return to the NCAA tournament.

One thing that could go wrong: The lack of size dooms Bennett’s defense, the hallmark of his teams. Virginia only has one player—freshman Mike Tobey—taller than 6-foot-8, and this dearth of inside players allows teams to take advantage inside the paint against the undersized Cavaliers.

The starting five: small forward Justin Anderson, power forward Akil Mitchell, center Mike Tobey, shooting guard Joe Harris and point guard Jontel Evans.

Projected finish in the ACC: 7th


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