Tony Bennett’s Virginia Cavaliers got back into the NCAA Tournament last year, but their postseason woes continued. They look to keep their winning ways this season and continue them into the tournament all the way to another Final Four
As is tradition, CBB Review is again ranking the top 100 teams heading into the new college basketball season. Each day, we will reveal the next team until we reach the team slotted at number one. Follow along with #CBBRank on all our social media channels.
After missing the tournament in 2022, Virginia made its triumphant return in 2023, losing to Furman in the first round on a last-second shot. The Virginia Cavaliers have been chasing a return to the Final Four since its National Championship in 2019, but the same postseason woes have haunted them.
Virginia hopes this is the season they finally make it back. This year will be a rollercoaster, so the same domination in 2019 will not happen. But the talent Tony Bennett is bringing in is capable of making a deep run.
Losing Kihei Clark, Jayden Gardner, and Armaan Franklin, the teams three leading scorers last season, definitely hurts. However, Reece Beekman, Isaac McKneely, and Ryan Dunn will take on bigger roles, and new faces will fill up the rest of the playing time.
Virginia’s biggest get this offseason was Jordan Minor, who averaged over 17 a game with Merrimack last season. Andrew Rohde was also a nice addition, coming over from St. Thomas after his freshman year.
The biggest question mark for Virginia is their size. The only players on Virginia that are taller than 6-9 are freshman, and Tony Bennett is known to be reluctant to play, let alone start, freshmen. It will be interesting to see the offense operate undersized.
All in all, Virginia will win. Tony Bennett has earned the respect he deserves in his 15 years at the helm, and no one can deny that Virginia will have a winning season. The question is will they compete at the top of the ACC, and will they finally be able to make a postseason push?
Click here to learn more about our preseason top 100 teams heading into the 2023-24 college basketball season.
Head coach: Tony Bennett (18th season, 15th at Virginia)
2022-23 record: 25-8 (15-5)
2023 postseason finish: Lost in the first round to Furman
Notable departures: Kihei Clark (Graduated), Jayden Gardner (Graduated), Armaan Franklin (Pro), Ben Vander Plas (Graduated), Kadin Shedrick (Transferred to Texas), Isaac Troudt (Transferred to Creighton), Francisco Caffaro (Transferred to Santa Clara)
Notable non-conference games: vs. Florida (Nov. 10), Fort Meyers Tip-off (Nov. 20-22), vs. Texas A&M (Nov. 29), at Memphis (Dec. 19)
PG: Reece Beekman (6-3, 190, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 9.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.8 SPG
SG: Isaac McKneely (6-4, 179, So.)
2022-23 stats: 6.7 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 0.7 APG, 42.3 FG%
SF: Andrew Rohde (6-6, 185, So.)
2022-23 stats: 17.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.6 APG (St. Thomas)
PF: Ryan Dunn (6-8, 208, So.)
2022-23 stats: 2.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 0.3 APG, 53.2 FG%
C: Jordan Minor (6-8, 240, Gr.)
2022-23 stats: 17.4 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 2.3 APG, 51.5 FG% (Merrimack)
6: Leon Bond III (6-5, 200, R Fr.)
Redshirted in 2022-23
247Sports Composite No. 60 rated player (2022)
7: Dante Harris (6-0, 170, Jr.)
Sat out in 2022-23 due to transfer
2021-22 stats: 11.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 4.1 APG (Georgetown)
8: Blake Buchanan (6-9, 215, Fr.)
247Sports Composite No. 82 ranked player
9: Jake Groves (6-9, 216, Gr.)
2022-23 stats: 6.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 0.8 APG, 38.1 3PT% (Oklahoma)
10: Elijah Gertrude (6-3, 180 Fr.)
247Sports Composite No. 48 rated player
11: Taine Murray (6-5, 205, Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 1.4 PPG, 0.9 RPG, 0.2 APG
12: Anthony Robinson (6-10, 230, Fr.)
247Sports Composite No. 52 rated center
Virginia Cavaliers MVP: Reece Beekman
Reece Beckman withdrawing his name from the NBA Draft was a saving grace for Virginia. Beekman, the reigning ACC DPOY has improved immensely year after year, now having the backcourt to himself after the departure of Kihei Clark.
Beekman will likely play the role of ball handler this season, which he did on and off throughout his career, alternating with Clark. This plays in nicely with Virginia’s offense, as he has the ability to create off the dribble but also pass off and find a shot, which is also much improved.
Everyone knows that Beekman is a lock down defender. That has not been a secret since he stepped foot on Grounds. He is quick, long, and a nightmare for anyone he covers. But offensively, Beekman’s game is still a little underrated. With the team in his hands, not only will he be looking at career-best figures and another successful Virginia squad, but he could even hear his name called during the lottery picks of this years NBA Draft.
Virginia Cavaliers make-or-break player: Ryan Dunn
Dunn showed flashes of potential stardom last season off the bench, creating highlights and being a huge source of energy for a sometimes lackluster squad. However, he will be asked to step into a bigger role this season, likely in the starting lineup.
Dunn has drawn many comparisons to DeAndre Hunter already, as they are both terrific defenders with long and athletic frames who have the ability to be nightmares slashing to the hoop. Some might argue that although Dunn is not as skilled as Hunter, he is more athletic.
Two factors in Dunn’s game will determine whether or not he can truly contribute to Virginia this season. The first is how has his jumpshot improved. Dunn showed capabilities but lacked consistency a season ago, but he needs to consistently knock down the open shot to truly contribute.
The second is whether or not he can lead. Hunter was so good in his role not only because of his skill but because he improved everyone around him. He was a staple in the middle of the defense and was able to take and make a big shot when needed (see national championship, 2019). If Dunn can do these things, Virginia will be in line for much success this season.
Key analytic: AdjD
Wow, shocker! Virginia’s key analytic is a defensive metric. Although it is beating a dead horse, it is no secret that the Virginia Cavaliers’s defense is what brings them so much success year after year. The Wahoos play tough, pack-line defense under Tony Bennett and drive offenses nuts with their swarming defense. They play slow, low possession games and basically bring their opponents to sleep to beat them.
However, last season, Virginia was just 25th in the country in AdjD, which is points allowed per 100 possessions (KenPom). For Virginia to be successful, the defense needs to be elite, especially due to the offensive troubles they may experience this season. In 2019, the defense was fifth in the country, and they won it all. Defense wins championships, especially in Charlottesville.
Virginia Cavaliers 2023-24 projections
Projected conference finish: 5th in the ACC
Projected postseason ceiling: NCAA Tournament – Elite 8