“On the surface, it looks like it’s well-positioned geographically,” Telep said. “It’s a product of competition for players. You’re competing against D.C.- and Baltimore-area colleges for players. North Carolina and Duke have lived in the state of Virginia the last decade. It’s been a tough row to hoe. I think the first thing that has to happen is Virginia has to become at some point the No. 1 option for players in its state.”
At this moment, trying to create a lasting program might prove more crucial. It’s a matter of finding players who will embrace Bennett’s defense-first philosophy and help create a stable, fundamentally sound program capable of weathering occasional problems.
“To me, it’s more about right now qualitative versus quantitative,” Bennett said. “I learned long ago to concentrate on the process and fall in love with that process. Be consumed with quality and how we do things, and the end results will wind up taking care of themselves.”
Such an approach makes it difficult to pin a timetable on the Cavaliers’ resurgence, but the course of action appears wise. Bennett dispelled ideas that his offense is merely a plodding slow-down system, and Williford noted that the last time Virginia was consistently good - in the Terry Holland and Jones years - defense was the team’s hallmark.
Tough, sound play (especially on the defensive end) is near the top of Bennett’s list of non-negotiables, pillars he intends to instill. It’s a similarity to his last rebuilding stop - and if things unfold as they did at Washington State, could be the reason all the things in place in Charlottesville finally lead to better results.
“As those things hopefully come together, then we’ll see some results,” Bennett said. “I think it’s not wise to say ‘I expect us to finish in this spot in the ACC’ or ‘I expect us to be here for postseason.’ … You’ll be judged by that and people will look at that, but there’s a process here and a long-range plan.”
Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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