Countdown to tip-off: preseason scrimmages
Note: Each day leading up to the Nov. 13 opener against Longwood, Cavaliers Journal will explore a different topic about the 2009-10 Virginia men’s basketball team.
The public’s first look of Coach Tony Bennett’s team will come next Friday against Longwood – not during a preseason exhibition like in past seasons. Virginia’s preseason tuneups this season will be organized scrimmages with Marquette and St. John’s that are closed to fans and reporters, per NCAA rules.
“There are some good exhibitions, but that’s hit-and-miss,” Bennett said, referring to the limitations on opponents in an exhibition game. Although Syracuse made headlines for losing to LeMoyne this week, most games are blowouts that provide little competition for a major-conference program.
“The nice thing about an exhibition is you get them out there in front of a crowd, under some lights,” Bennett said. “The nice thing about the scrimmages is you can play against a team who, depending on who you play, is comparable” to who Virginia will play during the season.
The scrimmages also provide flexibility with format. Bennett is limited as to how much he’s permitted to discuss the scrimmage against Marquette, but the structure included timed scrimmages, half-court practice in which the teams alternated every five possessions and “make-it, take-it” scrimmages. Bennett could not discuss how his team or specific players fared.
The flexibility in format is appealing to Bennett and is one of the reasons why such closed scrimmages are becoming more popular around college basketball. Freshman guard Jontel Evans said it gave him a taste of what college basketball might be like, revealing that he was more winded in parts of the scrimmage than he has been during practice.
The competition allowed Bennett to develop a better a sense of his roster, although evaluations have been ongoing during three weeks of practice. The scrimmage against St. John’s gives him his one last opportunity to watch his players against another opponent before playing Longwood in his first game that counts.
“I’m staying open, because it has to be earned through practice,” Bennett said of how he’s evaluated the roster one week before the first game. “Some guys took a step up, some guys took a step back. That’s competition. I have to evaluate it. There’s not a hard and fast starting lineup yet, but we have some different combinations. We can play small at times, or we can also go a little more classic.”
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