The countdown of the top 25 college basketball teams in the country begins with a Virginia team that looks to return to the NCAA Tournament,
Virginia looks to rebound from a disappointing 2021-22 season when the Cavaliers didn’t receive a bid into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2012-13 season.
Virginia returns the top six scorers from that squad, led by double-digit scorers Jayden Gardner, Armaan Franklin and Kihei Clark.
Ben Vander Plas joins Virginia after averaging 14.4 points and 6.3 rebounds over the last three years at Ohio.
Virginia (+600) trails only Duke and North Carolina in the odds to win the ACC championship according to the college basketball picks.
Virginia (+6600) is tied for 24th in the odds to win the national championship according to the sportsbook.
- 2021 record: 21-14
- 2021 ACC record: 12-8
- Head coach: Tony Bennett
- Odds to win conference title: +600
The 2021-22 season could have turned out much differently if Virginia learned how to close out games.
Annually one of the better defensive teams in the country and among the squads that commit the fewest turnovers per game, Virginia showed off those attributes at times a season ago.
Virginia’s season ended with its fourth loss by three points or less. There won’t be many teams who bring back as many proven players as the Cavaliers.
Gardner, a former East Carolina transfer, should be even better after finishing his first season with the Cavaliers by scoring in double digits in 16 of his last 17 games. Armaan Franklin was the No. 2 scorer in his first season after transferring from Indiana. When it comes to the college basketball predictions, he could be a dark-horse candidate in the race for the ACC Player of the Year.
Veteran playmaker Kihei Clark was a member of Virginia’s national championship team in 2019 and he teams with Reece Beekman in the backcourt.
— Virginia Men’s Basketball (@UVAMensHoops) October 8, 2022
Kadin Shedrick, a 6-foot-11 junior, brings some size along with 7-foot-1 senior Francisco Caffaro. Taine Murray could have a larger role after averaging 7.7 minutes in 10 games per game as a freshman.
The Cavaliers did lose Australian wing Kody Stattman, who averaged 16 minutes per game, while four reserves transferred elsewhere. Jayden Nixon is now at Johns Hopkins while Malachi Poindexter (Illinois State), Igor Milicic (Charlotte) and Carson McCorkle (Wofford) all averaged less than 10 minutes per game.
Virginia brought in a recruiting class that was ranked in the top 20 by both Rivals.com and 247sports. Forwards Isaac Traudy and Leon Bond join wing Ryan Dunn and guard Isaac McKneely in the class of newcomers.
After finishing sixth in the ACC a season ago, the talent is there for the Cavaliers to challenge for a top-three finish.
Beekman led the conference in assist/turnover ratio a season ago while Clark came in sixth. The ability to keep the turnover total low is one constant with recent Virginia teams.
Virginia led the ACC in scoring defense last season but finished ninth in scoring margin. The Cavaliers attempted the fewest number of 3-pointers in the ACC, and only Pittsburgh made fewer 3-pointers than the 176 hit by the Cavaliers.
Virginia won’t be challenging for the conference lead in 3-pointers, but connecting on more than 32% of the shots from long range would be a step in the right direction.
With so many low totals because of the methodical style of play by the Cavaliers, Virginia went over and under 15 times each over the last 30 games.
2022 Virginia Schedule
- Season opener: vs North Carolina Central, Nov. 7 9 p.m. ET
- ACC opener: vs Florida State, Dec. 3, 2 p.m. ET
Other Games to Watch
- vs Baylor (at Las Vegas), Nov. 18, 7 p.m. ET
- vs UCLA or Illinois, (at Las Vegas), Nov. 20, TBA
- vs Houston, Dec. 17, 2 p.m. ET
- vs Miami, Dec. 20, 8:30 p.m. ET
- vs Michigan, Nov. 29, 9:30 p.m. ET
- vs North Carolina, Jan. 10, 9 p.m. ET
- vs Duke, Feb. 11, 4 p.m ET
- vs North Carolina, Feb. 25, TBA