Countdown to tip-off: The offense
Note: Each day leading up to the Nov. 13 opener against Longwood, the Cavaliers Journal will explore a different topic about the 2009-10 Virginia men’s basketball team.
When Tony Bennett arrived at Virginia, he brought a reputation with him: tough on defense, slow and methodical on offense. It’s a formula that helped Bennett achieve success at Washington State, where it’s traditionally been difficult to build a consistent winner.
The offense has been a source of intrigue among fans. Washington State was 314th out of 330 division I teams last season with 59.2 points per game, and there has been speculation about whether the pace will be identical with the Cavaliers. Although Bennett is still learning his team, his players insist they will play faster than Bennett’s reputation indicates.
“That’s what everybody thought coming in here, but that’s not going to be the case,” guard Jeff Jones said. “We’re doing different stuff. We’re running, playing to our personnel. And everyone’s doing things they can do. I don’t think it’s nowhere like a slow-down type thing. It’s a smart offense. If we play a fast team like North Carolina, we’re going to have to slow it down a little bit. But not necessarily, as I’ve been seeing in practices.”
Many of Bennett’s principles translate – he emphasized being disciplined with shot selection and taking care of the basketball – but he also said that he will play to his personnel.
Virginia has players who can score – Sylven Landesberg averaged 16.6 points per game last season, and four other players on the roster have eclipsed 20 points in a game in their career – but Bennett is still figuring out how they fit among each other. Of concern to Bennett is the lack of a three-point shooter and the lack of an inside scorer, although Jones and power forward Mike Scott could fill both of those respective roles.
“Certain guys can score with different situations, but giving guys freedom with good decision making” will be included in the offense, Bennett said. “Our style will certainly start with the defensive end. And then when the opportunities are there, hopefully be able to get up and go at times, and be solid in the half court as well.”
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