On Billy Baron

I don't know if Billy Baron will end up being a star or not. He wasn't very highly recruited, frankly, but he does appear to be exactly the type of player that will thrive in Tony Bennett's system. He also appears to be the type of player that UVa fans will enjoy: a hard-nosed kid who plays hard and, perhaps more importantly (given what we've seen over the last decade), who plays smart. There have been times since the New Gillenium began that I would've given my kingdom for a few players who didn't take bad shots and make bad decisions. I'm so tired of that, but I'm very optimistic that Bennett is going to change that.

At any rate, what brought on this rambling post was this Daily Progress profile of Billy Baron. Check it out.

Hoos lose to South Florida

Well, that was ugly. Shot selection was simply horrible, and that's been a problem with Virginia teams going back to Pete Gillen. I had hoped that would be one of the first things Tony Bennett would correct. Bennett preaches protecting the basketball; well, taking good shots within the offense is a part of that.

There were some rough individual "performances" as well, including Jontel Evans. As good as Evans looked in his Virginia debut last week, that's how bad he looked last night. He'll be fine, though.

There are positives, if you can believe it. The defense -- effort and execution -- in the first fifteen minutes was better than almost anything we saw during the Dave Leitao years. It didn't last, for any number of reasons. One is that Mike Scott is the only inside presence on the team right now, and when he went out with foul trouble, Virginia just couldn't match up on the defensive end.

Other "positives": the offense, despite poor shot selection and poor shooters, is clearly being installed. The guys move without the ball, screen, flare, make UCLA cuts...all things we rarely saw before this year. Also, the players are playing very hard. Maybe they got down on themselves a bit in the second half, and maybe the execution was sloppy fairly often, but the effort was always there.

This isn't a group of players that Bennett would've recruited to play in his system. It's a square peg in a round hole, but I still firmly believe that we will be proud of this team by the end of the season. Bennett has them headed in the right direction.

The Tony Bennett Era Begins

The Tony Bennett era of UVa basketball begins tonight, and I think we all have high hopes that it will end better than the "New Gillenium." Tonight, the Hoos will open against Longwood at JPJ Arena. Gametime is 7 pm. Not surprisingly, there is no television coverage of this titanic struggle, but Dave Koehn and Cory Alexander will call the game on the Virginia Sports Network.

Virginia is more short-handed than usual tonight, though I hope it won't come back to haunt the good guys. Calvin Baker is out after having arthroscopic knee surgery. Assane Sene has been suspended. Jamil Tucker is, well, not here.

Fortunately, Sylven Landesberg is here, and I know I'm not the only one who is anxious to see how Landesberg performs in the new system. He's a talented guy; I'm not particularly concerned.

I've never been more excited for a Virginia-Longwood game. That's kinda sad.

Let's talk hoops

In the interest of trying to forget about football entirely, let's talk hoops for a minute. I have a big stack of Virginia basketball links that I've been meaning to post (and I want to stay positive, so no discussion of the Assane Sene suspension), but I went out of town this weekend and am just now getting around to it. Before the link roundup, however, a note about my expectations for the 2009-2010 men's basketball squad. The Good Ol Blog is running a poll, asking for predictions on the number of ACC wins Tony Bennett's squad will reach this year. I voted for 7, which seems to be a popular selection.

Seven wins would be a great result in Coach Bennett's first season. The team is predicted to finish next to last, which I think is absurdly pessimistic. We don't have top-four talent on this roster, but there's enough there for Bennett to fashion a competitive squad. I think the Hoos are going to finish in the bottom half of the conference, but they will have at least one big ACC upset, and they will be blown out of very few games.

More than that, I think they will be fun to watch (something we can't say about the football team, unfortunately). They are going to scrap and claw and fight to the end of every game. It's their coach's disposition (ask his Washington State players), and I really believe his players are going to buy into it.

I'm very high on Tony Bennett, if you haven't noticed. (Take that with a grain of salt, however; I was high on Pete Gillen and Al Groh, too).

Anyway, on to the links:

--The poll above was prompted by Dear Old UVa's interview with John Gasaway, of the ever-popular Basketball Prospectus (here is part one of the interview, and here is part two). Gasaway predicts that Virginia will go 8-8 in the ACC. That, my friends, would be a spectacular success, as far as I'm concerned.

--The Daily Press had a couple of outstanding articles on Coach Bennett this weekend, and they are both worth a read. This one focuses on the fact that rebuilding is in Coach's blood, and this one is a collection of items about Bennett that didn't make it into the main story. There is a ton of great stuff in there for UVa hoops junkies. Like me.

--Looking back at one of our favorite Hoos ever, JR Reynolds (some great video at that link). Although it's looking increasingly unlikely, I'm still hopeful that JR will get a shot at the NBA sometime.

--Shifting over to women's basketball for a moment, Monica Wright's name is on the finalists list for the Senior CLASS award. That won't be the last time we hear "Monica Wright" and "award" in the same sentence.

--Finally, it's behind the subscription wall, but The Sabre has this interview with Jeff Jones, the key to UVa's season, in my opinion.