Is The UVA Ascension Reality Or Fallacy?

The construct we call time appears intangible from the average person’s point of view as it touches all things; yet it remains untouchable, with even meticulously engineered time pieces falling short of this task. Clocks keep track of it from a linear perspective but have no hand to calculate the manner in which time is relative to the observer. For example, according to the time dilation portion of Einstein’s theory of space relativity, a moving clock will measure time more slowly than one that is stationary. The relativity of now is observed as moving slower than the “then” is being propelled into the past. When applying this scientific theory to this year’s University of Virginia men’s basketball program we see that the now of their spectacular early season success in the ACC appears to be moving slowly into the future while those great UVA men’s basketball teams from back in the day are accelerating into the past at an ever-quickening pace.

However, so too are those seasons in which the Cavaliers failed to live up to their own lofty expectations.

From the Final Four teams of 1981 and 1984, to the NIT Championship team of 1992, the University of Virginia Cavaliers men's basketball team has always been one of the most high profile collegiate basketball programs in the country. But due to its geography and home conference featuring such perennial powerhouse universities as Duke, North Carolina, the recently added Syracuse Orange and the always scrappy Maryland Terrapins, UVA often finds itself on the bad end of the stick when all is said and done. Despite their storied history that features the incredible skill and length of Ralph Sampson, the intestinal fortitude of John Crotty, the one-on-one scoring ability of Corey Alexander, the Herculean strength of Olden Polynice and the defensive tenacity of Bryant Stith, the University of Virginia men’s basketball team has never won an NCAA tournament championship and hasn’t returned to the Elite Eight since 1995.

There are many variables that one can mention regarding UVA’s inability to get over the hump in such a bastion of basketball talents as the Commonwealth of Virginia; competition from ACC schools, the presence of neighboring schools such as Georgetown, lack of a tournament exposure relative to the other top programs in their conference, a dearth of recent student-athletes in the NBA and the lack of a flashy, slick-talking coach ala John Calipari.

However head coach Tony Bennett has been doing all he can to bring the expectations and passion of the UVA fans and alum back up to a level reminiscent of the 1980s when the Cavaliers were ranked for most of the decade but failed to grasp the proverbial brass ring.

After finishing the 2012-2013 season with a disappointing loss in the NIT Quarterfinals, last year’s Cavaliers team kind of came out of nowhere during the regular season and captured the ACC Championship for the first time in 38 years over Duke and advanced to the Sweet 16 before being shown the exit by Michigan State. Their 30-7 record was the best at UVA since 1982. 

This year’s UVA men’s basketball team is off to the best start in the school’s 110 year history of playing basketball as they currently sit at  17-0 (5-0 in the ACC) and are ranked 2nd in the nation behind the NBA factory otherwise known as the University of Kentucky. 

If it weren’t for the manner in which Kentucky has been devouring its opponents, the resurrection at UVA as a college basketball powerhouse would easily be the top story in college basketball despite having only defeated two ranked teams in Maryland and Notre Dame. One of the keys to the success of Coach Bennett’s squad is the manner in which the offensive scoring load is spread out uniformly over the entire roster with guard Justin Anderson (14.5), guard Malcolm Brogdon (13.6) and forward Anthony Gill (11.7) being the only individuals averaging over 10 points per game. Sophomore guard London Perrantes makes the offense flow and sacrifices his offense to distribute the rock. In addition, the Cavs are ranked fifth in the nation in team defense and they don't turn the ball over. These, not lengthy wing players or one-and-done NBA stop-overs, are the hallmarks of a winning team. While UVA is currently only five games into their ACC schedule and still have Duke, North Carolina and Louisville looming in the distant future, Cavaliers' fans have the right to be excited and proud.

But they would be foolish to overlook a Georgia Tech squad that is fiending for their first ACC victory of the year. Is UVA the San Antonio Spurs of the ACC? Well, the Spurs are a championship organization so that comparison would be a little disrespectful for the Spurs (sorry Cavs fans), but they do seem analogous to the Atlanta Hawks. Team basketball is winning basketball and UVA is certainly proving that.

However, sustaining this level of excellence will be increasingly difficult in a schedule that’s about to get Aunt Esther ugly in a few weeks. 

But come what may, Cavs fans should rejoice, even if it's only for the time being.