Should we be worried about Virginia after last night’s loss?

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Virginia is the two-time defending ACC regular season champions, and they’ve done it on the strength of a defensive system that is as difficult to score on as any in the country.

The Pack-Line. It’s a defense that Dick Bennett made famous and a defense that his son, Virginia head coach Tony Bennett, currently runs as effectively as any program in the country. Last season, the Wahoos finished first nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to, better than Kentucky, who many believed had one of the best defensive teams of all time.

The only time that Virginia gave up more than 72 points in a game last season came in a double-overtime win at Miami. Only five times all season long did they give up more than 65 points. When they played George Washington last season, the Colonials managed all of 42 points. Part of that is due to the pace at which Virginia plays, but KenPom’s rankings are pace-adjusted.

Slow or not, Virginia had the most ruthlessly efficient per-possession defense in the sport last season.

RELATED: Kevin Larsen’s worst career game helped GW beat UVA.

That should tell you just how impressive it is, then, that GW was not only able to beat Virginia on Monday night — the Cavs went 30-4 last season and have 11 losses the last two years combined — but that they did so by scoring 73 points in a 68-possession game. Once the Colonials worked through their nerves on the first three or four possessions of the game, they seemed downright comfortable functioning against what’s supposed to be one of the best defenses in the sport.

“We got outplayed and out-executed,” Bennett said after the game. “Who are we and how do we have to play? Sometimes we forget, in these settings, just how tough it is.”

I have a few thoughts on what UVA did on Monday night and their outlook moving forward:

MORE: What is the Pack-Line defense and why is it so successful?

1. Fouls: Virginia is going to have to make some adjustments with the way that they play defense this season. The emphasis is on freedom of movement. You can’t put your hands on a driver. You can’t use your body to change the direction of their penetration. Ticky-tack fouls are going to get called all season long, just like they did on Monday night. GW shot 28 free throws. Darius Thompson, who is supposed to be Justin Anderson’s replacement as a defensive-stopper, fouled out in 23 minutes. Anthony Gill had four fouls. The ‘Hoos were clearly frustrated last night at the tight whistle — late in the second half, GW was able to get to the rim on repeated straight-line drives, something you never, ever see against UVA — and it doesn’t seem like that is going to change this season.

“I’ve got to get a feel for that,” Bennett said. “It is different. Everyone has to adjust to how they call it, and we gotta learn how they’ll call it.”

2. Slow rotations came back to bite them: The most impressive thing that GW was able to do on Monday night was force Virginia to change one of their defensive principles. UVA always uses big-to-big doubles on the catch on post touches to eliminate a low-post presence. Always. But Kevin Larsen eviscerated those traps, picking up four first-half assists. He made some beautiful passes, but Virginia’s defense was a step slow rotating on the weak-side. Credit GW for making the play, but those are plays that Virginia believes they should have been able to stop.

“When we went to trap [Larsen] was playing to pass,” Bennett said. GW head coach Mike Lonergan confirmed later that they “wanted Kevin to get double-teamed” because of how good he is passing the ball. “We just were out of our positions. We hung on too long. We know we’re supposed to scramble back and we were rusty. That cost us today.”

3. Losing Justin Anderson hurts: His ability as a perimeter defender was awesome. He’s 6-foot-6, 230 pounds and an elite-level athlete. Darius Thompson, his replacement, is listed at 6-foot-4, 196 pounds. Virginia certainly misses that defensively, but they also miss his perimeter shooting. He was burying threes at a near-50 percent clip when he was hurt last season. On Monday, the ‘Hoos were 5-for-20 from beyond the arc, many of their misses being good, clean looks at the rim.

4. But losing Darian Atkins hurt more: Anderson got all the press because he was hurt last season, his injury coincided with Virginia’s fall from title contender to a second round exit and he was a first round pick in the NBA Draft. But talk to any coach that had to put together a game-plan against UVA, and they’ll tell you that Atkins was, unequivocally, Virginia’s best defender last season.

“Atkins was their anchor,” said one coach who put together a scout on Virginia last season. “He was so good at the little things that people don’t notice. Curl protecting. Showing on the screen and giving the guard an extra second to get back. He’s so active, talkative. It was like they had six men on the court. And he protected the rim.”

“That dude … that dude was special.”

Mike Tobey is the guy that has replaced Atkins at the five this season, and while he is a load on the offensive end of the floor — he had 10 points and seven boards last night, scoring on a series of nice post moves and even burying a three — he’s not even close to being the same kind of defender that Atkins was. At one point in the second half, when Virginia stopped doubling Larsen in the post, GW made the decision to starting attacking Tobey. That was their advantage, and it worked.

5. GW is good: More than anything, that’s the takeaway that I have after watching this game courtside. They may be the best team in the Atlantic 10, and I would be shocked if they didn’t start picking up votes for the top 25 next week. Virginia clearly has some things to work through and are still trying to find a way to replace the pieces they lost last season, but this was a road game on the fourth day of the season against a well-coached, veteran, borderline top 25 playing in front of an absolutely raucous crowd. This was equivalent to losing a road game against a top-half-of-the-ACC program.

There’s no shame in that for Virginia. In fact, we should all be heaping praise on Tony Bennett for being willing to test his team on the road this early in the season.


UConn adds former Rutgers guard Cam Spencer from transfer portal

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STORRS, Conn. — National champion UConn added some shooting depth to its roster Friday, announcing the signing of former Rutgers guard Cam Spencer from the transfer portal.

Spencer, who graduated last month with a year of eligibility remaining, averaged 13.2 points in his only season in New Jersey. The 6-foot-4 guard, who played his first three seasons at Loyola of Maryland, shot 44.4% from the floor, including 43.4% from 3-point range.

“Cam is the perfect addition to our basketball program,” UConn Coach Dan Hurley said. “He brings a unique combination of high-level skill and feel for the game, with a fierce competitiveness that has allowed him to enjoy a terrific college basketball career thus far.”

The Huskies lost their top 3-point scoring threat, sophomore Jordan Hawkins, to the NBA draft, along with wing Andre Jackson Jr. and post Adama Sanogo.

Guard Tristen Newtown gave the Huskies a boost last month when he withdrew his name from the draft pool and returned to Storrs.

The Huskies began summer workouts this week, welcoming a top recruiting class led by 6-6 point guard Stephon Castle, a McDonald’s All-American from Georgia. The class also includes 6-7 wing Jayden Ross and 6-4 guard Solomon Ball from Virginia, 6-7 wing Jaylin Stewart from Seattle, Washington, and 7-foot center Youssouf Singare from New York.

“I think that some of my strengths will stand out in UConn’s style of play,” Spencer said. “They have a lot of great movement and they play so well together, with great chemistry. I think that I can come in and hopefully contribute to that.”

NCAA tweaks rules on block/charge calls in men’s basketball

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INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA is tweaking how block/charge calls are made in men’s basketball.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved rule changes on Thursday that require a defender to be in position to draw a charge at the time the offensive player plants a foot to go airborne for a shot. If the defender arrives after the player has planted a foot, officials have been instructed to call a block when there’s contact.

Defenders had to be in position to draw a charge before the offensive player went airborne under previous rules.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee members made the proposal after NCAA members complained that too many charges were being called on those types of plays.

The panel also approved reviews of basket interference calls during the next media timeout – if the official called it on the floor – a shot clock reset to 20 seconds on an offensive rebound that hits the rim, and players being allowed to wear any number between 0 and 99.

A timeout also will be granted to an airborne player with possession of the ball, and non-student bench personnel will be allowed to serve as peacekeepers on the floor if an altercation occurs.

Charlotte head coach Ron Sanchez resigns after winning CBI title

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ron Sanchez resigned as head coach of the Charlotte 49ers.

Sanchez took over the 49ers on March 19, 2018, inheriting a team coming off a 6-23 campaign. In five years Charlotte went 72-78 under Sanchez, highlighted by winning the College Basketball Invitational championship this past season, the Niners’ first post-season tournament title in school history.

The 22 wins this past season are the most for Charlotte since 2001.

“Ron took over a proud but struggling program and carefully rebuilt it into a 22-game winner. He has led with class, dignity and devotion to our young men,” Charlotte director of athletics Mike Hill said. “His decision to step down from Charlotte was a difficult one for him and everyone associated with our program. We wish him and his family every happiness.”

Hill said the team has already begun a national search for a replacement.

“This is a bittersweet day for me and my family as I step down to pursue other opportunities,” said Sanchez, who came the 49ers after working as an assistant coach at Virginia under Tony Bennett. “It has been a tremendous privilege to lead the 49ers basketball program over the past five years and I want to thank Niner Nation for its support. I will be forever grateful to my staff, players and the university.”

Marquette extends Shaka Smart’s contract through 2029-30 season

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MILWAUKEE — Marquette coach Shaka Smart has received a contract extension after leading the Golden Eagles to their first outright regular-season championship and tournament title in the Big East.

Smart’s contract now runs through the 2029-30 season. This is the first extension Smart has received since signing a six-year deal when he took over as Marquette’s coach in 2021.

Marquette didn’t release financial terms of Smart’s deal.

“In a very short period of time, Shaka and his staff have done a tremendous job of establishing a winning culture, both on and off the court,” athletic director Bill Scholl said in a statement. “Shaka’s vision for the program is focused on extended, sustainable success. The individuals who interact with the team on a daily basis are able to observe frequent examples of growth and the excitement around the program is contagious.”

Marquette has gone 48-20 in Smart’s two seasons and reached the NCAA Tournament each of those years.

The Golden Eagles went 29-7 and won the Big East’s regular-season and tournament championships last season after the league’s coaches had picked them to finish ninth out of 11 teams. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.