The Washington Post
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| ||A top high school player from Philadelphia, Sean Singletary has started every game this season and has nearly twice as many assists as turnovers. (AP) |
Thursday, March 10, 2005; Page G8
How They Could Win It All
Despite their mediocre record, few teams in the conference are as athletic as the Cavaliers. When healthy, forward Devin Smith is a big-time player with the ability to score inside and outside. Senior center Elton Brown can be very effective at times and takes up a lot of space inside. Gary Forbes has the potential to score in bunches -- he scored 21 in a Feb. 12 win over Virginia Tech and 23 in a Feb. 16 loss at North Carolina.
Freshman point guard Sean Singletary mostly plays under control and is willing to take big shots. Guard T.J. Bannister saved one of his best performances -- 15 points -- for highly regarded Wake Forest on Feb. 27.
J.R. Reynolds is equally streaky, scoring 18 at home against North Carolina and then going scoreless in the rematch in Chapel Hill.
The Cavaliers have a nice blend of experience and youth, with two seniors, two sophomores and one freshman in their starting lineup. When they're running their offense effectively, the Cavaliers can score in a lot of ways. Five players scored 20 points or more in games this season, and five players are averaging at least 9.9 points per game.
Virginia's win over Arizona might feel even farther away than November, but the Cavaliers should have plenty of motivation: Coach Pete Gillen's job is definitely on the line.
How They Could Lose It All
Virginia has underachieved as much as any team in the country. After winning nine of its first 11 games, including a victory over Arizona, Virginia lost seven of its next eight. When Jason Clark was declared academically ineligible for the second semester, the Cavaliers lost someone who had played at least 20 minutes in each of their first 11 games. Promising freshman Adrian Joseph also missed a significant stretch because of a pectoral injury.
The Cavaliers don't shoot the basketball well -- they rank last in the ACC in field goal percentage and 10th in three-point shooting percentage. Elton Brown gets fouled a lot, but he is a huge liability on the free throw line.
The Cavaliers also rank 10th in the league in scoring defense and last in three-point defense. Because of his players' inability to guard opponents effectively, Coach Pete Gillen completely changed his offense during midseason, a desperate act by a desperate coach of a desperate team.
Instead of running the half-court sets through Brown, Virginia now plays a version of the four corners, with its guards dribbling near half court for most of the 35-second shot clock. The guards either penetrate for a layup, or kick the basketball out to the wings. The strategy yielded three straight wins in early February before losing its dubious charm.
If Sean Singletary had come to Virginia sooner, Coach Pete Gillen's job might not be on the line. Singletary is the point guard the Cavaliers had been missing during Gillen's first six seasons at the school.
A top high school player from Philadelphia, Singletary has started every game this season and has nearly twice as many assists as turnovers. He has played his best in some of Virginia's biggest games, scoring 19 points in an 80-66 loss at Duke on Jan. 16 and 23 in a 92-89, double-overtime loss to Maryland on Feb. 19.
In the latter game, Singletary scored 12 of Virginia's 20 points in the overtimes, drawing praise from the Terrapins' John Gilchrist.
"When your team really needs you to win, especially as a point guard, you have to step up and do that," Gilchrist said. "He really showed me a lot of heart and guts tonight."
Singletary has been inconsistent shooting three-pointers and needs to improve his foul shooting. He has been plagued by a shoulder injury that may require surgery during the offseason.
One Shining ACC Moment
When the ACC moved its tournament out of North Carolina and into the Capital Centre in Landover for the first time in 1976, Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell was feeling confident about his team's chances.
The Terrapins were playing in their home state and had college basketball's best back court in all-American John Lucas, Mo Howard and Brad Davis. But No. 6 seed Virginia, which went 15-11 and 4-8 in the ACC during the regular season, pulled one of the biggest surprises in ACC tournament history.
The Cavaliers upset three nationally ranked teams in as many days, beating No. 17 North Carolina State, 75-63, in the first round; No. 9 Maryland, 73-65, in the semifinals; and No. 4 North Carolina, 67-62, in the championship game.
The Cavaliers were 0-6 against those teams during the regular season. Senior forward "Wonderful" Wally Walker, who had been left off the all-ACC team on the eve of the tournament, scored 73 points in three games on 28-for-41 shooting and was named the tournament's most valuable player. It was the Cavaliers' first and only ACC tournament championship and is still referred to as the "Miracle in Landover" by Virginia basketball fans.
ACC Tournament Section
• After 15 years, the Nation's Capital plays host to country's premier conference tournament.
• John Feinstein: In a glut of tournaments, this one still matters.
• Tournament info and records
• Bracket and schedule
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