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Countdown to tip-off: The schedule

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.

Virginia Coach Tony Bennett inherited most of the 2009-10 schedule, which provides opportunity to accumulate a healthy amount of non-conference wins heading into Bennett’s first ACC season.

The Cavaliers will play 13 non-conference games, from regional opponents such as Hampton and North Carolina-Wilmington to lesser-known schools such as the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Texas-Pan American.

There are also major conference opponents such as South Florida, Penn State and Auburn. The marquee portion of the non-conference schedule comes in Cancun, when Virginia plays Stanford and could have a date with Kentucky.

“We’ll be challenged,” Bennett said. “I think every coach wants to know before you head into conference play the areas you’ll improve on and hopefully the areas that you’re strong. This schedule will test us in that regard.”

The Cavaliers also benefit from a relatively light ACC schedule. They twice play Miami, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech and Maryland. N.C. State is the only team predicted to finish worse than Virginia in the preseason media poll, and Miami was picked to finish 10th.

But it is that non-conference schedule that receives the most scrutiny, because those are the games scheduled by the coaching staff. Bennett played Gonzaga in each of his three seasons as head coach at Washington State. Although its not a BCS-conference school, Gonzaga is perennially among the top teams in the nation.

Bennett scheduled four BCS-conference schools last season, including Pittsburgh, Mississippi State, Louisiana State and Baylor. However, he only had one BCS-conference opponents in his first two seasons with the Cougars.

The Pac-10 plays 18 conference games, which makes for fewer non-conference opportunities than the ACC. The remote location of Pullman, Wash., also complicates travel.

But in his first year at Virginia with a schedule largely inherited, Bennett has a chance to play the most major conference foes out of any of his regular seasons as head coach.

“A lot of games on the road against BCS schools, and there are certainly some home games,” Bennett said. “But I think heading into ACC play, we’ll have a pretty good feel of where we’re at and hopefully where we’ll have to get better.”

By Zach Berman  |  November 4, 2009; 8:48 PM ET
 | Tags: Men's Basketball  
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