“You have to know who you can lose with first before you can win with them,” became Bennett’s calling card as the Cavaliers struggled to 31 losses during his first two years on the job, according to Zeglinski. It seems Virginia is ready to put that saying to the test in season three of the Bennett era.
“There’s definitely some more expectation this year but I think our mind-set is kind of the same,” Zeglinski said. “We just want to keep getting better every day and kind of live in the moment and fall in love with the process. That is a goal of ours, to get to the tournament, but at the same time we know that we need to prove it on the court.”
Bennett, like most coaches facing increased expectations, wouldn’t get into any specifics as to what that improvement will look like in terms of wins and losses. Though some believe this is the year Virginia makes the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007, the coach wants his players to “say we’re gonna get as good as we can and if that’s good enough, we’ll end up where we want to be, where our goals are.”
“I think that’s the best way to get to your full potential,” he said. “So for guys that are worried about am I gonna be good enough, don’t worry about where you’re going to end up. Just do it.”
Zeglinski said he has already seen improvements during the first few practices of the season, particularly with forward Mike Scott back to provide a post presence. Bennett said the team won’t rely on the three-pointer as much this season in hopes of a more balanced attack.
“In this system you kind of need to go through some growing pains,” Zeglinski said. “Offensively I think we’re more cohesive this year and I think we made some strides from last year.”
For the next week, Virginia will have to make due without guard Jontel Evans after he sprained his knee in practice last Wednesday. Bennett expects him back soon.
Nothing, though, can stem the enthusiasm that has come from the Cavaliers’ encouraging finish to last season — the ACC tournament collapse against Miami notwithstanding. It’s certainly a far cry from the start to the past two seasons, when even Bennett admits his thought process was simply, ‘I hope we’re gonna be okay.’
“You can definitely feel a buzz around the university and everybody is kind of excited about the season coming up,” Zeglinski said. “We want to have success this year, but at the same time we need to go out and earn it. Nothing is gonna be given to us. Just because people are saying we’re supposed to be good, it doesn’t mean we’re gonna go out and win games. We need to take it day-by-day to reach our goals.”