Virginia basketball has become one of the best basketball programs in the anywhere. The last 3 years they have won 89 games. In the country’s best basketball, the ACC, they have a brilliant record of 45-9, including an ACC Title. Tony Bennett is considered one of the best young coaches in college basketball. He completely rebuilt a program that was going nowhere.
When it comes to Virginia basketball, things look bright, except when it comes to the Hoo’s March performances. As a #1 seed in 2014, they lost to Michigan State in the Sweet 16. As a #2 seed in 2015, they again lost to Michigan State. In 2016, again as #1 seed they went to down to Syracuse in the Elite 8 in a shocking 2nd half collapse.
It’s no surprise, that Virginia’s deliberate offensive style and focus on defense would be brought into question. Virginia’s style is great for the regular season, but it can’t win in March. The offense is too prone to scoring droughts. They need to open things up. All are valid question’s when you have 3 consecutive years of March disappointments.
What should Virginia do to get over the Final 4 hump? Here’s a thought, not a whole bunch. You don’t win as much as Virginia has in a conference like the ACC without being very good. Virginia beat 3 of the 4 teams in the Final 4 this year. They cruised over a very good Iowa State team in the Sweet 16, and dominated Syracuse before the collapse in the final 10 minutes.
Yes the collapse was discouraging, but there are several examples of basketball coaches hitting a proverbial March hump before breaking through.
Bobby Cremins in 1985 went to Elite 8 at Georgia Tech. In 1986 he took the Yellow Jackets to the Sweet 16. It wouldn’t be until 1990 that Cremins took the Yellow Jackets to the Final 4. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski went to 4 Final Fours, before winning a national title. Dean Smith went to 6 Final Fours and coached 20 years before winning a national title. Roy Williams coached 17 years before winning his first national title, and once went 9 years at Kansas between Final Fours. I’m pretty sure I saw Wisconsin make back to back Final Four’s with Bo Ryan after 12 years of trying.
The fact is some very successful coaches had March humps of their own, and didn’t overhaul their programs. If anything the only difference was when some of these streaks were broken when a transcendent college basketball player arrived like Kenny Anderson at Georgia Tech, Christian Laettner at Duke, Michael Jordan at North Carolina, Frank Kaminsky at Wisconsin. Roy Williams 2005 didn’t have transcendent player, but 4 first round NBA picks left Williams with the most talented in college basketball that year.
Tony Bennett has 4 Four-Star players coming in next year. 3 of them are top 100 players. Bennett is building a power at Virginia. There is talent coming in. I believe Virginia is program that is built to last, and they’ll get to the Final Four. This year was a disappointing NCAA tournament. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim did get the better of Bennett in the Elite 8, but when I watch Virginia I see a program that will eventually break through.