What we know: Though the majority of the roster is young, Coach Tony Bennett’s pack-line defense and slow-it-down approach should ensure Virginia will be in position to win its fair share of games. It’s also clear there is no star like last year, when Mike Scott averaged 18 points and 8.3 rebounds. Virginia will utilize a more balanced approach, with multiple players averaging eight to 12 points per game.
What we don’t know: Beyond Joe Harris, it remains unknown who else will fill the scoring and rebounding void left by Scott. Injuries also are a concern, especially at point guard. Jontel Evans just had the walking boot removed from his surgically repaired foot this week and there is no timetable for Malcolm Brogdon’s return with his foot injury healing slower than expected. Until those two are healthy, Virginia will be relying on two freshmen (Taylor Barnette and Teven Jones) as well as Harris to be its primary ballhandlers.
Prediction: With so much youth, there’s a good chance a second consecutive NCAA tournament berth is not in the cards. But given Bennett’s style of play, and the possibility that a few of his talented freshmen emerge as immediate contributors alongside Evans and Harris, Virginia has the potential to be one of the surprise teams in the ACC. An NIT bid, with plenty of hope for the future, is the most likely end result.
— Mark Giannotto