Virginia Fans: Stay Calm, Patient, And Grateful
Sports |  Source: nbccollegebasketballtalk.files.wordpress.com

Virginia Fans: Stay Calm, Patient, And Grateful

The team is fine, the season is young, and you're in a good place.

Let's look back: It's New Year's Eve as 2014 approaches, and Virginia's men's basketball team sits at 9-4, fresh off a 35-point drubbing at Tennessee. The team appears to be treading water, where they have been most often since Ralph Sampson's departure: somewhere between a cellar-dweller and a run-of-the-mill Power Five program. But then the clock hit midnight, and everything changed.

Fast-forward over three years, and the Cavaliers have just suffered their first double-digit loss since that Tennessee game, and a panic is slowly arising in a fan base that's not accustomed to back to back losses.

Hold it right there. Instead, 'Hoos fans should be feeling calm, patient, and grateful.

If fans take a moment to remember where the team was just three years ago, a last-second home loss to a talented Florida State team and an overtime loss at the Oakland Zoo should not be cause for alarm. Even at this point last year, Virginia was on their way to a 2-3 start in ACC play, with losses to mediocre Florida State, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech squads and no marquee road win like this year's team grabbed at Louisville. Last year's team ended up as top seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Sure, this team doesn't have a first team All-American like Malcolm Brogdon to lead the resurgence. But the team is still rated fifth on KenPom.com, a highly respected advanced metrics site, which is cause for optimism.

Virginia fans have quickly learned all too well that seasons are made and broken in March where anything can happen, and coach Tony Bennett's defensive system will keep the team close in every game.

Virginia fans must also stay patient. Expectations for this season had to be re-calibrated after the dismissal of Austin Nichols. No program can lose arguably their most valuable player after the graduation of a signature class and expect to maintain the same level of play.

With how close the losses have been, having a talented player like Nichols playing big minutes in a struggling frontcourt would have this team at 14-1 or even 15-0. The team was constructed as if Nichols would play a big role, and to fault coach Bennett or the players for how this season plays out would be an unfair standard.

Fans must stay patient as players like Mamadi Diakite and Jarred Reuter face an accelerated development schedule. Patience until the end of this season will quickly be rewarded: with London Perrantes the lone expected departure after this season, a senior-laden team with incredibly talented underclassmen should have Virginia back as a top-five team next season.

Most importantly, fans must maintain perspective and continue to be grateful for where the program is situated. Since New Year's Day 2014, no Power Five program outside of Kentucky has won more games than Virginia's 91. But while blue-bloods like Kentucky and Duke pile up wins as expected, Virginia's dominance is the only one that exudes inexplicable brilliance.

The traditional powers of college basketball have produced sustained success through the modern template for building a national title contender: bring in top-10 recruits and produce top-10 draft picks. Virginia has done neither, making the players, coach Bennett, and the program all the more likable.

After one NCAA Tournament appearance in eight seasons, Bennett has transformed the program into one with three combined ACC regular season and tournament titles and two NCAA Tournament one-seeds in three years. Falling short of ACC titles and Final Fours has become a failure in the eyes of some Wahoos fans that used to beg for NCAA tournament appearances.

So Virginia fans: I urge you to enjoy this young, goofy team regardless of the losses that are bound to come ahead. Just remember how fortunate we are to have an elite basketball program with an elite coach.

It's not always worse to lose with dignity than to win at Duke. Withstanding the "rocky" start this season by the high standards that Bennett has set, two things remain certain for Virginia Cavaliers basketball: the present is bright, and the future is brighter.

Image Alt
Sports |  Source: usatoday.com

How Well Do You Know College Lacrosse? (Quiz)

The season is upon us.

College lacrosse season means the start of spring and it has begun! How well do you know the history and rules of college lacrosse?

I'm sure you know more about it if you go to a more Northern school (besides the North Carolina schools), but give it a try and see how well you know one of the great forgotten college sports.

Image Alt
Sports |  Source: wvillustrated.com

West Virginia Had The Worst Final Possession Ever

Bad. Bad. Bad.


You would have to go all the way back to my sixth grade Biddy Basketball days to see a worse final possession. That was disgraceful. That's Knicks bad.

Two rushed threes with 12 seconds left, rebound after rebound and you still can't even get a last shot off? That's the West Virginia difference. After watching this, all I can imagine is Bob Huggins drinking bourbon in a dark room cursing Gonzaga's name dreaming of the Juwan Staten days.

It's really not fair, but you had to see this coming. Gonzaga is just a better team. You can talk about the weak schedule all you want, the Zags are L-E-G-I-T.

It's too bad cause the whole state of West Virginia really needed this dub. West Virginia is truly a garbage, desolate wasteland. You would think Huggs and squad would come through at least once for the desperate Mountaineers.

Image Alt
Sports |  Source: pickandpop.net

Don't Worry, LeBron And The Cavs Are Just Fine

It's just a flesh wound.

The NBA playoffs are just around the corner, and if you've paid attention to the conversation in basketball-talk circles over the last week, there's one topic on everyone's mind: the Cavaliers' current losing streak.

Ready for the brutal numbers? The Cavaliers... have lost three games in a row.

GASP!

Yeah. It's not actually that bad.

The bigger picture is that Cleveland has gone 8-11 since the All-Star break, and actually lost the top seed in the Eastern Conference to the Boston Celtics this past week. They're now a half game back of Boston, with a game in hand, and still ticketed for one of the top two seeds in the East.

Oh, and, uh, the teams they've lost to? Pretty good teams. Like the Clippers, the Wizards, and the Spurs, just to name a few.

They've also been playing without Kyle Korver, their best sharpshooter, for the past week, and this is all following J.R. Smith's return to action after missing a couple months with a wrist injury.

So when you slow down and think about everything going on, the whole "OH MY GOD THE CAVALIERS ARE BAD NOW" thing doesn't really make much sense. But it's 2017, and our memories are short because Snapchat, so all basketball fans are thinking right now is that LeBron's lost his magic touch.

Wrong again. LeBron, who refuses to age with the kind of resolute defiance befitting a king, is having another unthinkably impressive season. He's averaging 26 points, eight rebounds, and nearly nine assists per game, and shooting the third-highest effective field goal percentage of his career. He's not a man slowing down; if anything, he's accelerating with urgency to capitalize on the tail end of his prime.

And I know, I know: basketball is a team sport. LeBron playing great ball isn't a cure-all for mediocre team basketball. That's true, and it's worth maaaaaybe a few seconds of hand-wringing over.

But then you snap back to reality and remember that there's one player in the entire league who's been to the last six NBA Finals. And there's only one player in the league who will go down as one of the four best players in history.

And there's only one LeBron James.

The Cavs are going through a bit of an uneven patch right now, but they will be fine. It's better to get this out of the way in March rather than in the playoffs, anyway, right?

None of this will matter come playoff time, just like the Warriors' 73-9 record didn't matter when they lost to LeBron's Cavs in the Finals last year. The playoffs are a whole different world, and no one knows the playoffs better than LeBron James.

Image Alt
Sports |  Source: washingtonpost.com

Virginia Will Be a Team To Watch Again This Year

Embrace the pace, baby

Virginia was a top-10 team for most of last season before falling to Syracuse in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Deep runs into March have become the norm in Charlottesville, and this year should be no different.

The Wahoos lost Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill, but not to worry. London Perrantes is still around for his fourth year and his personality suggests he will embrace the leadership role of the team. He is a solid point guard bringing the ball up the court, dealing with pressure defense and passing the ball around, but he's an even better shooter.

If losing big man Anthony Gill makes you doubt these Cavaliers, Memphis transfer Austin Nichols has served his year off the court from transferring and is ready to make John Paul Jones Arena a block party every week. Seriously, Nichols averaged 3.4 blocks per game as a sophomore at Memphis.

Virginia has a lot of players that fly under the radar, due in part to Coach Bennett's style of play, which is all about the pack line defense. The pack line is all about putting pressure on the perimeter and forcing ball-handlers into double teams.

Some of these players include Mariol Shayok, Darius Thompson, Jack Salt, Devon Hall, Isaiah Wilkins, and Jared Reuter. These guys all put defense first, which is the mindset that is necessary to play for Coach Bennett. There are also five exciting freshmen coming in who will able to add value for the eighth ranked Wahoos.

Virginia basketball program was struggling before Bennett came to town from Washington State, where he had won a national coach of the year award. The Cavs were coached by Dave Leitao who was the opposite of Coach Bennett.

Leitao's strategy was to make the players feel terrible about themselves so they supposedly would work harder and he focused on offense and style points. Bennett makes the players feel like they have unlimited potential and tries to extract that potential from his players.

Bennett doesn't care if his squad scores 40 points as long as the opponent scored 30. Style points do not matter. He would prefer a guy to lay the ball up rather than dunk it and gloat about it. Shot clock violations are what get the Hoos and all the fans more pumped than anything else (though they still do dunk).

The ACC will once again be the top conference in the country with the consensus number one team in the Duke Blue Devils (no surprise there) and four top 10 teams including these Cavaliers. It will be stiff competition, but the Hoos have the coaches, leadership and supporting cast to go further than last year.

Image Alt
Sports |  Source: si.com

ACC Men's Hoops Power Rankings

Here's how they stack up this year.

There's no need to make ACC men's basketball great again. It already is.

Year after year, they tend to have a handful of AP top-25 schools and some tournament contenders. Here's a look at how the ACC school's men's basketball programs rank headed into the 2016-2017 season (last year's record in parentheses).

1. Duke (23-10, 11-7 ACC)
Sure, they lose a few guys to the NBA draft just about every year, but they reload every single time. Amile Jefferson and Grayson Allen are their only two returning starters. But they added four five-star recruits: Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Frank Jackson and Marques Bolden.

They'll be young and talented and set for years to come if they don't lose all of them of the NBA draft. At this point, it really doesn't matter who is playing for Duke. They always find good players.

2. UNC (28-6, 14-4 ACC)
Their 14-4 record against ACC teams last year was a conference-best. And they bring back a rather experienced squad. They bring back four players who averaged at least 8.9 points per game (Joel Berry II, Theo Pinson, Justin Jackson, Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks).

They only landed one five-star recruit though: center Tony Bradley. They'll be strong--maybe just not Duke strong.

3. Virginia (26-7, 13-5 ACC)
One of the top teams in the ACC last year, Virginia will once again be experienced. They bring back five players, who played at least 15 minutes per game last year (London Perrantes, Devon Hall, Isaiah Wilkins, Marial Shayok and Darius Thompson).

They also landed arguably the top transfer in the country, Austin Nichols (Memphis). The junior didn't play last year, but he put up 13.3 points per game as a sophomore. With that experience, why aren't they higher? No five-star recruits.

4. Louisville (23-8, 12-6 ACC)
Their three top scorers from last year are gone. Pretty much everyone else is still there. That includes seven players, who played at least 12 minutes per game last year, so they will be deep.

They added a couple nice pieces to the squad. V.J. King, a five-star recruit and transfer Tony Hicks (Penn), a three-year Ivy League starter (13.2 points per game last year), could figure into the team's starting mix as well. Not bad.

5. Syracuse (19-13, 9-9 ACC)
They should be better this year. Much better. And they made it to the Final Four last year, so that's saying something. Their two starting big men are back: Tyler Roberson and Tyler Lydon. And their recruiting class is impressive.

In addition to a few four-star recruits, they added three transfers Andrew White (Nebraska), John Gillon (Colorado State) and Paschal Chukwu (Providence). White averaged 16.6 points per game last year and Gillon had 13.2. There go any concerns about their guard situation.

6. Virginia Tech (19-14, 10-8 ACC)
Not really known for basketball? That's about to change. They only lost one key player, Jalen Hudson, a sophomore transfer. The rest are coming back. That includes a lot of guys who played at least half the game most of the time (Zach LeDay, Seth Allen, Justin Bibbs, Chris Clarke, Justin Robinson, Kerry Blackshear Jr. and Devin Wilson).

Throw in Ahmed Hill, who started as a freshman but missed last year due to an injury, and a pair of junior college transfers (Ty Outlaw and Seth LeDay), they look like a strong team.

7. NC State (16-17, 5-13 ACC)
Struggles in league play should be alleviated this year thanks to a new crop of talent. Cat Barber and Caleb Martin are gone. But the school added a pair of five-star recruits, Dennis Smith Jr. and Omer Yurtseven, who will likely be their starting point guard and center respectively. They also have Terry Henderson coming back from injury, a guy who averaged 11.7 points per game for West Virginia University in 2013-2014.

Plus Charlotte Transfer Torin Dorn put up 12 points per game in 2014-2015. And returning starters Maverick Rowan and Abdul-Malik Abu both averaged nearly 13 points per game, so there's potential here.

8. Clemson (17-14, 10-8 ACC)
All of their top three scorers are back (Jaron Blossomgame, Donte Grantham, Avry Holmes)--the only three players on the team to put up at least ten points per game last year. After that, they lost their next two top scorers (Jordan Roper and Landry Nnoko).

But transfers Shelton Mitchell (Vanderbilt), Marcquise Reed (Robert Morris) and Elijah Thomas (Texas A&M), who is eligible to play come second semester, should supplement for their losses.

9. Miami (27-8, 13-5 ACC)
So much missing here; specifically, Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan and Tonye Jekiri. That's their two top scorers from last year and their center. Davon Reed, Ja'Quon Newton and Kamari Murphy return, which is half of their top six.

San Jose State transfer Rashad Murphy (13.9 points per game as a sophomore) should be a major contributor. But most likely, Miami won't be as strong as they were last year.

10. Pittsburgh (23-11, 9-9 ACC)
When you play North Carolina, Virginia, Louisville and Syracuse twice and Boston College, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech once, your league schedule is tough. And it doesn't help when your head coach, Jamie Dixon, is gone as well as starting point guard James Robinson.

They bring back several contributors--including top scorers Michael Young and Jamel Artis--but their league schedule is tough and it's tough to say how they'll fare under new coach Kevin Stallings.

11. Florida State (19-13, 8-10 ACC)
Returning their top point scorer (Dwayne Bacon), adding a five-star recruit (Jonathan Isaac), Michael Ojo returning from injury and the addition of a pair of junior college transfers (Braian Angola-Rodas and Patrick Savoy) should help ease their losses.

Their losses headed into this year are tough (Malik Beasley, Devon Bookert, Boris Bojanovsky and Benji Bell). They essentially made up for what they lost. That's not bad.

12. Notre Dame (21-11, 11-7 ACC)
Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste are in the NBA now. Those are huge losses for the program. And the rest of the conference is strong.

They return a trio of players, who put up at least 11 points per game last season (VJ Beachem, Steve Vasturia and Bonzie Colson). But the two NBA losses might be difficult for them to work around.

13. Wake Forest (11-20, 2-16 ACC)
Not the worst team in the ACC. But there's a lot better. They lost a few guys: Devin Thomas, Codi Miller-McIntyre and Cornelius Hudson. But guard Bryant Crawford's 13.8 points per game as a freshman impressed, as did big man Konstantinos Mitoglou's 9.8 ppg while grabbing more than five rebounds.

There's two conference opponents they should beat. And who knows? Maybe they upset another.

14. Georgia Tech (19-14, 8-10 ACC)
They lost their top four scorers -- who scored 71 percent of the team's points last season. They fired their head coach. Their top returner, Quinton Stephons, averaged roughly five points per game last year. It's not looking good.

Graduate transfers Jodan Price (Eastern Michigan) and Kellen McCormick (Western Michigan) will probably start. But they won't be able to turn around an entire team. Expect to see a lot of freshmen on the court. Rebuild mode.

15. Boston College (7-25, 0-18 ACC)
They didn't win a single ACC game last year. And they lost two of their best players, Eli Carter and Dennis Clifford. At least Jerome Robinson, a sophomore shooting guard, should be solid.

Graduate transfers Jordan Chatman (BYU), Connar Tava (Western Michigan) and Maurice Jeffers (Delaware) could start. Not much else to say.