Virginia returns to the court Tuesday against Brown for its final nonconference game of the season. Coming off a 14-point loss to Xavier, the Cavaliers are fortunate to have a home date against a 5-7 Ivy League team before playing rival Virginia Tech on Saturday. The Cavaliers have much to improve, as evident by a frustrating 6-4 start. Tuesday's game will not be televised. If you are attending or watching the online webcast, here are three important storylines to follow:
Who plays well off the bench?: Coach Dave Leitao is still trying to determine his best rotation. He has given 11 different players prominent minutes this season. Two bench players -- senior Mamadi Diane and sophomore Jeff Jones -- were expected to be leading scorers this season. Sophomore Mustapha Farrakhan was a starter early in the season before losing his job to Sammy Zeglinski. Yet Farrakhan showed signs of life in a Dec. 28 win over Georgia Tech with a career-high 12 points. In the same game, Jamil Tucker scored a career-high 15 points. Clearly, the Cavaliers have talent off the bench. No one has been consistent, though. Opponents like Brown can help build confidence for struggling players. The Cavaliers must take advantage of that opportunity, because defenses will become tougher starter Saturday.
Will Leitao go big?: Leitao has played smaller lineups against smaller teams this season, using 6-foot-8 forward Mike Scott as his big man. Brown's leading scorer is 6-foot-8 Matt Mullery, who starts at center. Virginia has received energy and production from 7-foot center Assane Sene. The freshman is not a refined offensive player, but has at least been assertive. Leitao's rationale earlier in the season for using the smaller lineup was the lack of offense from his centers. If Leitao plays Sene, it could be a signal that the Virginia coach has greater confidence in his big man.
Will anyone care?: The crowds at John Paul Jones Arena have been overwhelmingly uninspiring. The facility is just in its third year and cost $191 million overall, so a lack of interest is a bad sign. The largest attendance this season was 11,070 against Auburn on Dec. 20. Capacity is 15,219. Students are still out of Charlottesville on semester break and inclement weather might affect some fans, too. But this could potentially be one of the smallest crowds of the season. Attendance will undoubtedly pick up for next week's game against North Carolina, but fan interest will be an ongoing storyline during what could become a long season.
January 6, 2009; 11:55 AM ET
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