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2021-22 Virginia men's basketball preview

Virginia Cavaliers

2020-21 record: 18-7, 13-4 in the ACC

Head coach: Tony Bennett

Tenure at Virginia: 13th Season

Career coaching record: 364-136

Home court: John Paul Jones Arena

Starters: G Kihei Clark, G Reece Beekman, F Armaan Franklin, F Jayden Gardner, F Kadin Shedrick

Bench: G Carson McCorkle, G Taine Murray,  G Kody Stattmann, F Igor Miličić Jr., C Francisco Caffaro,

Overview: Last season was a mixed bag for Virginia fans. After the euphoria of 2019’s NCAA title triumph came a season of highs and lows for head coach Tony Bennett and his Cavalier squad—which exited the NCAA tournament after a 62-58 loss to 13-seed Ohio on top of regular season losses to North Carolina State and an underperforming Duke side. The program did, however, finish at the top of the ACC and was the conference’s highest-ranked team in March despite it’s disappointing exit. Virginia is a perennial heavyweight, though, and will come into this season hungry to prove why it’s still one of the kings of college basketball.

Two things become immediately clear when looking at last season: this team can score and most of its previously-reliable scorers have departed. Virginia’s average scoring margin from the 2020-21 season was plus-7.7 with 68.2 points per game, including a 47.4% field-goal percentage, 37.5% 3-point percentage and 81.6% free-throw percentage. Leading last year’s line were Jay Huff, Trey Murphy III and Sam Hauser, all of whom have left the program and with it big offensive shoes to fill. Most impressively, the trio combined for 1,006 points last season including 144 3-pointers.

Though most of the Cavaliers’ old guard has left, and with it a substantial section of its scoring personnel, senior guard Kihei Clark returns with his 9.5 points per game season alongside sophomore Reece Beekman and redshirt sophomore Kadin Shedrick. Most importantly, though, are the program’s most recent acquisitions in junior guard Armaan Franklin from Indiana and senior forward Jayden Gardner from East Carolina. These players are the most likely members of Virginia’s starting five. If they can replicate the offensive ruthlessness that we have become accustomed to with 'Hoos basketball and reduce their concerning turnover ratio from last season, Tony Bennett could once again have reason to target postseason greatness.

Team ceiling: If Bennett can get this team to gel and make up for the scoring threat he lost in the offseason, there’s no reason to think Virginia cannot make a deep run in the NCAA tournament to the Elite Eight or Final Four. Success breeds success, and Virginia has had a lot of that recently.

Team floor: Much like we saw last season, though, the Cavaliers are susceptible to slip-ups. It is unlikely they will miss out on the NCAA tournament but could see a lower-than-expected seeding and an early round exit.

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