Virginia is for Leavers. But why?

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I live in Charlottesville, VA, so I hear all the questions and concerns about Tony Bennett’s program on a daily basis. When one of those questions begins to creep into the national college hoops conversation, you know something strange is going on.

Following the news that Taylor Barnette will transfer from UVA, announced very late in the offseason just last week, the question has been widely asked: What’s up with all those transfers, Tony? Bennett has been on the job in Charlottesville for four years, and he’s had eight transfers make the headlines. For a program that seems to be on the cusp of the NCAA tournament every season, that’s an alarming trend.

I hit up a friend who has worked in a few AD’s offices in the state, and he came up with the same answers that Jim Young of ACCSports did in the article I linked above. It’s a combination of four factors, which I’ll quote from my source while maintaining his anonymity:

Short answer: playing time/homesickness/reaches/system. Pick at least one

Homesick: Regan/Johnson/Jesperson
Playing time: Harrell/Baron/Barnette
Reaches (were they really ACC players?): Regan/Baron/Barnette
System: Spurlock

In a way, I’d have to nudge Billy Baron – who played the 2010-11 season with the Cavaliers – into the homesick camp as well. Baron chose UVA over his father Jim’s program at Rhode Island. With his dad on the perennial hot seat, Baron must have wondered why he threw over his pops to average 11 minutes and three points per game, even at an ACC school. Billy rejoined his dad for one season at Rhode Island before Jim was fired, and the two moved on to Canisius together.

If you look at the list of transfer reasons, the first two are kind of understandable and universal, though. Every program deals with transfers that fall into the homesickness/playing time category. The ones that seem specific to Bennett and UVA are the last two.

The system, at this point, is a well-known commodity. Bennett used it to revive Washington State before he came to Virginia. The upshot: If you want to run, don’t play for Bennett. There’s no mystery there, and Bennett’s assistants, who have been with him for years, are not misleading anyone on that score. It’s a testament to Bennett’s charisma that Tristan Spurlock – a Virginia native who transferred to Central Florida – stayed on for one season of Bennett ball after being originally recruited by Dave Leitao. By this point, no player should pretend to be shocked when he’s asked to crash the boards, play interior defense, and walk the ball up the floor more often than not. The system is what makes Virginia a dangerous team against programs that can out-recruit them at every turn. Unless a truly elite player plans to come to Charlottesville, the system has to be paramount.

So, that brings us to the reaches. To contend in the ACC, you have to be in a position where you’re not reaching very often. Bennett’s been building a program from the ground up, so he’s had to extend his grasp from time to time. In fact, despite the potential shown by each player who transferred out, you’ll note that only one of them has latched on with a power-conference program so far. Will Regan shuffled off to Buffalo. Baron followed his dad down the conference ladder to the A-10, then the MAAC. Jeff Jones became a contributor at Rider, and Spurlock is growing into his role at UCF. James Johnson moved closer to home, landing on a quality San Diego State roster, but he’s still warming the bench. We don’t know yet where Jesperson or Barnette will end up. That leaves K.T. Harrell, who will start the next phase of his career at Auburn next season. Not exactly a step up in the current college hoops pecking order. We’ll never know if Bennett could have shaped those guys into ACC-caliber players, but right now, it sure looks like he didn’t lose anything he can’t live without.

As the ACC gets tougher, with the addition of Pitt and Syracuse, Bennett will find his program being pushed closer to the NIT or worse every season. It’s unlikely that the days of a Ralph Sampson coming to UVA will ever return, so we’ll expect the Cavaliers to be forced to reach from time to time. That’s fine, as long as those kids aren’t the core of the starting five.

Local fans will fondly remember when this team was paced by the wonderful backcourt duo of Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds. I believe Tony Bennett can find that kind of chemistry on his own roster, possibly very soon. If a few flyers and projects don’t work out in the interim, perhaps that’s not the worst thing in the world.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

VIDEO: Chennedy Carter caps Texas A&M comeback with filthy game-winner

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No. 4-seed Texas A&M erased a 15-point fourth quarter deficit to knock off No. 5-seed DePaul, 80-79.

The game-winning bucket came courtesy of Chennedy Carter, who won the game with this filthy, filthy move:

VIDEO: Michigan State’s Matt McQuaid makes circus buzzer-beater off a blocked shot

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Michigan State is in the midst of a battle with No. 11 seed Syracuse in the second round of the Midwest Region.

The No. 3 seed Spartans are having a tough time adjusting to the Orange’s length in the 2-3 zone as a low-scoring and slow-paced game has made it close.

Thankfully for Michigan State, guard Matt McQuaid nailed a circus buzzer-beating three-pointer after Syracuse’s Matt Moyer blocked his first attempt. The ridiculous bank shot at the end of the first half gave the Spartans a 25-22 lead.

McQuaid’s unlikely buzzer-beater had a lot of things happening in one play. It’s one of the more unique basketball plays we’ll see in the NCAA tournament.

It also provided a great photo of McQuaid about to release the second attempt in mid-air. So many great reactions in that photo.

No Haas, no problem: No. 2 Purdue sneaks past No. 10 Butler, into Sweet 16

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No Haas, no harm.

Playing without Isaac Haas, their senior 7-footer who fractured his elbow in an opening round win over Cal St.-Fullerton, the Boilermakers shot 11-for-24 from three and got a valiant effort from their other 7-footer, freshman Matt Haarms, in a 76-73 win over No. 10-seed Butler.

The second-seeded Boilermakers advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season. They’ll take on No. 3-seed Texas Tech in the East Region semifinals on Friday evening in Boston.

Purdue was led by 20 points from Vincent Edwards, Purdue’s senior leader, who scored 20 points on 6-for-8 shooting as his partner in crime, sophomore Carsen Edwards, shot just 4-for-17 from the floor and finished with 13 points. The biggest shot of the night came from another senior, Dakota Mathias, who buried a three with 14 seconds left that put Purdue up five.

But the real story here was Haarms.

The freshman will be thrust into a critical role for the Boilermakers throughout the rest of this tournament, and I don’t think that it’s crazy to say that the Boilermakers will go as far as he allows them to go. Haarms is the only big man currently on the Purdue roster that played any kind of meaningful minutes this season. Purdue played roughly 100 possessions during the regular season without Haas or Haarms on the floor, and it’s probably safe to assume that the majority of those possessions were played during garbage time, when the walk-ons were on the floor.

Haarms finished with seven boards, six boards and a pair of blocks in 27 minutes, doing a good enough job in the role that he was asked to play to keep Butler from lighting up the Boilermakers in pick-and-roll actions and in protecting the rim. He is certainly a better defender than Haas, particularly in space, but he is no where near the threat that Haas is on the offensive end of the floor. It limits what Purdue can do offensively, and with a game coming up against one of college basketball’s best defensive teams, a group that prides themselves on their ability to run teams off the three point line, we could be looking at a situation where Purdue really needs that interior presence.

What Haarms can provide will be a difference-maker.

I hope he’s ready for it.

VIDEO: Jordan Poole got a hero’s welcome in Michigan’s locker room

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Jordan Poole hit the game-winning, buzzer-beating three to send Michigan into the Sweet 16.

And as you might expect, when he made his way back into the Wolverine, he was greeted with a wall of water:

Let’s see that from another angle:

I can never see enough of these videos, but perhaps this is the best part: Two weeks ago, after Michigan won the Big Ten tournament, John Beilein was absolutely drenched in the locker room, having to go to his press conference sopping wet, cold and wearing a towel around his shoulders.

So on Saturday night, he did the smart thing. He wore a poncho and goggles and went on the offensive:

Sunday’s betting lines, point spreads, over-unders

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Here is the full TV schedule, with spreads, over-unders and betting lines, for every game for final day of the first week of the NCAA tournament.

Detroit: Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce

  • 12:10 p.m.: No. 2 Purdue (-3.5) vs. No. 10 Butler, CBS (143.5)
  • 2:40 p.m.: No. 3 Michigan State (-9) vs. No. 11 Syracuse, CBS (129.5)

Charlotte: Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson

  • 5:15 p.m.: No. 2 North Carolina (-6.5) vs. No. 7 Texas A&M, CBS (151.5)
  • 7:45 p.m.: No. 9 Kansas State -10) vs. No. 16 UMBC, CBS (135.5)

Nashville: Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas, Jamie Erdahl

  • 6:10 p.m.: No. 2 Cincinnati (-8) vs. No. 7 Nevada, TNT (136.5)
  • 8:40: No. 1 Xavier (-5.5) vs. No. 9 Florida State, TNT (159)

San Diego: Carter Blackburn, Debbie Antonelli, John Schriffen

  • 7:10 p.m.: No. 4 Auburn (-1.5) vs. No. 5 Clemson, TBS (146.5)
  • 9:40 p.m.: No. 5 West Virginia (-12.5) vs. No. 13 Marshall, TBS (159.5)