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College basketball preview: Virginia Cavaliers

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Coach: Tony Bennett. Fourth season, 53-41; 122-74 overall

Last season: 22-10, NCAA round of 64

Key player: G Jontel Evans. The senior won't be Virginia's top scorer, but he is a two-year starter at point guard and arguably the ACC's top lockdown defender. Those are valued traits for the Cavaliers, who are still waiting for Evans to return from early October surgery on a broken foot.

Biggest loss: F Mike Scott. Scott averaged a team-high 18.0 points; Joe Harris was second on the roster at 11.3 points a game. Scott's 8.8 rebounding average nearly doubled the total of his next closest teammate (Akil Mitchell, 4.4). So, yeah, the first team all-ACC pick will be missed.

Top newcomer: C Mike Tobey. The lanky 6-foot-11 freshman should have a chance to play immediately with few established options in the frontcourt. With already solid footwork and a decent shooting touch, he could be one of Virginia's cornerstones moving forward.

Best case: The freshman class instantly contributes, Evans and fellow injured guard Malcolm Brogdon heal quickly and Akil Mitchell takes another step forward in the post as the defense-first Cavaliers make consecutive NCAA appearances for the first time since 1993-95.

Worst case: Without Scott, steady scoring becomes an even greater chore in Charlottesville and Virginia slides deep into the ACC's second division. Also a concern: How well Virginia's newcomers pick up the demands Bennett's pack line defense.

Key games

Nov. 28 at Wisconsin. Bennett takes the Hoos back to his home state in what is sure to be a first-to-50-wins contest ... that is, if anyone gets to 50 points.

Dec. 5 vs. Tennessee. The highlight of the home nonconference schedule features the Volunteers, who were a surprising 19-15 in coach Cuonzo Martin's first season and are picked to finish fourth in the SEC.

Jan. 24 at Virginia Tech. Virginia hasn't won three straight games in Blacksburg since 1944-47 and has never done it in Cassell Coliseum. That could change early in league play.

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