With the devastating loss to U.M.B.C. in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament, the Virginia Cavaliers are forced to turn their focus to next season. After being on the wrong side of the first ever 1 vs. 16 seed upset, Tony Bennett‘s team must be reflecting on what could have been. However, the team that takes the floor during the opening game next year should have just as much talent as this year’s team.
The Cavaliers will return many of their core players from a season ago. Should Kyle Guy return for his Junior year, he will remain the offensive focal point. This means that the Cavaliers will return their leading scorer from a season ago, a huge plus for any team going into the off-season. Ty Jerome will also be a Junior next year, giving the Cavaliers a pair of sharpshooters who will likely return. De’Andre Hunter, should he choose to return to school, will be just a redshirt Sophomore. A broken wrist ended his year, and the lack of his presence on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor were felt in the tournament loss to U.M.B.C. Mamadi Diakite, who also redshirted during his first season with the team, will be a Junior next year. I do not expect any of these players to declare for the NBA draft in June, giving the Cavaliers a very formidable squad for next year.
The Cavaliers will lose two of its most important leaders next season in Devon Hall and Isaiah Wilkins. The departures of these two players will likely hurt the team’s play on the floor, but the greatest impact will be felt in the locker room. Both of these guys were outstanding teammates and leaders, and Tony Bennett will miss having them on the team. The loss of Hall’s ability to create his own shot will also negatively affect the teams offensive potential, but I do fully expect Kyle Guy to take over his role. Wilkins’ hustle and energy on the defensive end will also be missed, but with the continued development of Mamadi Diakite and Jack Salt the Cavaliers should be able overcome his loss. Nigel Johnson‘s presence off of the bench will also be missed next season.
A wildcard includes how Tony Bennett will incorporate two soon-to-be Sophomores in Marco Anthony and Jay Huff. The potential of each of these players is very high, but it remains to be seen how much their minutes will increase in the rotation.
On paper, the Cavaliers appear built to withstand the losses of Hall, Wilkins, and Johnson next season. The ACC is primed to have a bunch of talented teams again next year, but no team has been as consistent as Tony Bennett’s in conference play.