Sam Hauser, a transfer from Marquette who sat out last season per NCAA rules, played plenty of one-on-one against his brother, Joey, who also transferred out of Marquette to Michigan State, which coincidentally happens to be the Cavaliers’ opponent in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
Then there was Jay Huff, who entered the NBA draft pool, withdrew before the deadline and got married.
“We did it in person,” Huff, a fifth-year senior, said after first joking that he and his wife exchanged vows via FaceTime roughly seven weeks ago. “We went small ceremony and had family and friends there, and even then afterward we quarantined for a week away from the team just to make sure, get tested, everything like that.”
Virginia Coach Tony Bennett watched streaming video of the ceremony on Facebook. It was among the more pleasant diversions since the outbreak for the coach of the reigning national champions after the NCAA canceled last season’s tournament.
Bennett otherwise has conducted practices in groups of four in an effort to limit extended exposure indoors among the entire team, revealing several players tested positive and others on the staff, including managers, quarantined in line with contact tracing protocols.
The Cavaliers also have turned to their counterparts on the football team for a model of how best to ensure player and staff safety. Football players and staff went without a positive test during training camp and through the first game Sept. 26 against Duke, a 38-20 win.
It had seven players unavailable, none starters, for the next game, a 41-23 loss to then-No. 1 Clemson. Other ACC football programs, such as Virginia Tech, North Carolina State and Louisville, have played with substantially compromised rosters or postponed games entirely.
A spate of positive tests for a college basketball team is far more impactful given its maximum roster size of 15 as opposed to 85 scholarship players in major college football.
“I’ve talked to a couple guys in my year, juniors,” Clark said of friends on the football team. “We know it’s difficult. It’s going to be hard. I know they’re itching to go see people, just like regular students, but you’ve got to make sacrifices in order to do what you want to do.”
The Cavaliers, ranked fourth in the Associated Press preseason top 25, closed last season playing some of the best basketball in the country, winning eight in a row and 11 of 12. In typical Virginia fashion under Bennett, only three of those victories came by more than one possession.
Its last game was a 57-54 win against Louisville on senior day at John Paul Jones Arena in which Clark had 18 points, five assists and five rebounds. Huff sealed the triumph by blocking a shot in the final minute that could have given the Cardinals the lead.
Virginia secured the No. 2 seed in the ACC tournament, and it was scheduled to face seventh-seeded Notre Dame — the Cavaliers won the only regular season meeting between the teams, 50-49 — in the quarterfinals.
The ACC conducted the opening rounds with fans packed inside Greensboro Coliseum before deciding to play without spectators. Officials canceled the tournament the next day, awarding the ACC title to Florida State, which finished first in the regular season.
The Cavaliers are scheduled to begin this season Nov. 25 against Maine in the Bubbleville Pod One tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. They also play Florida in the same event the day after Thanksgiving.
“I think for some of the returners, I hope there is some carry-over because they were playing good basketball, but you do have a different team,” Bennett said. “For the guys that played last year, there’s obviously that desire and realizing they were on a roll, and then the season got cut short. There’s an excitement for that.”
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