Before the season began, there was some trepidation among pockets of the Virginia die-hard fanbase over whether or not Joe Harris could shoulder the load as the team's primary scoring option; over whether or not he could be the Batman instead of just the Robin.
[Brace for extended comic book metaphor.]
Now that the season is over and I'm reflecting back, I think Joe Harris did a fine job as our Batman. Now, maybe it was the creaky-knees, heart-maybe-not-totally-in-it Batman from Dark Knight Rises -- Joe's struggles down the stretch and in the postseason certainly weren't pretty.
But that being said, I'm not convinced that this season was a Batman movie. I think it was more like a Justice League movie. Or maybe more precisely, a Justice League prequel.
Okay, so Joe is Batman. Then that means Akil Mitchell is Green Lantern. And Mike Tobey is Martian Manhunter. Evan Nolte is Aquaman (not really sure why, it just fits). Teven Jones? The Flash. Paul Jesperson... uhhh... Wonder Woman? Darion Atkins is Hawkman. Jontel Evans is Red Tornado. Taylor Barnette = Green Arrow. And of course... Justin Anderson is a young Superman.
Enough of that nonsense, on to the Power Rankings... and a new #1 that just might surprise you.
#1 Justin Anderson (previous rank: #3)
Look, I'm not trying to be insulting here. For the balance of the season, Joe Harris was clearly our best player. But in the postseason, Justin Anderson was just as clearly taking over the top spot. He's dynamic, explosive, galvanizing, and of all the players on our current roster, has the best chance to be the fiery on-court leader we sorely lack. Joe is a great player, but as Mike noted yesterday, JA has the potential to be a transcendent player. He's a difference-maker in every sense of the term. A matchup nightmare, because he's too quick for big guys and too strong for small guys. And frankly, he's the kind of player UVA just never has. Heading into next season, I think Anderson will bully his way into "centerpiece" status. The irony is that Joe could then slide comfortably back into a Robin type of role.
|If he's Robin, at least he's this one...|
|...and NOT this one.|
I think Joe's 32.5 minutes per game need to come down to around 28 for next season. Watching him labor around out there at the end of the season was really painful and disappointing. He didn't come close to living up to his All-ACC First Team status in the postseason. But he's still a knockdown shooter with an extremely well-rounded game; a fantastic offensive weapon and also a gritty all-around player.
|Just becaise it's cool to put a pic of |
Martian Manhunter on the blog.
Just like JA staged a last-second coup over Joe, Tobes did the same thing to the Big Fundamental. Said simply, Mike Tobey is the kind of big man you can build an entire team around. The fact that he's going to be a tertiary offensive option next season tells you just how special the 2013-14 team might be. UVA hasn't had a center with this type of offensive skill in what? 20 years?
He had long stretches of the season where he was completely indispensable, but he really petered out in the postseason. He's still a fantastic rebounder, a plus-plus defender, a plus finisher, and a serviceable offensive weapon. He's also my favorite player on the team. Two things I love about him: 1) The way he RIPS down rebounds, and 2) The way he won't let the opposing team see the ball go through the hoop on a dead ball play stoppage. Can't wait to watch him play out his senior season -- he'll be worthy of serious ovation on Senior Night 2014.
#5 Jontel Evans (previous rank: #4)
I'm a total dick for saying this, but I won't miss him. In so many agonizing ways, his weaknesses and shortcomings overcame whatever positives he brought to the table. I rank him #5 because of his quality minutes and assists, which were always up around 3-4-5-6 a game. (Of course, a point guard who is any sort of offensive threat wouldn't be passing off the ball so much, and wouldn't allow the defense to sag off of him and collapse and clog the lane so often. Watch Tobey and Mitchell's production skyrocket with a real point guard running the offense next season.)
#6 Taylor Barnette (previous rank: #9)
We don't win that St. John's game without our version of the Microwave.
|Not sure why, it just fits.|
He hit the so-called "rookie wall" and he hit it hard. Once he lost confidence in his shot, his all-around game just sort of totally fell apart. I still really like him, and I think next season will be his understudy season working behind Joe Harris.
#8 Paul Jesperson (previous rank: #5)
Okay, I've seen enough to form an opinion here. He's a head case. He's got the talent and skill to be a really good player - solid D, can shoot the 3, surprisingly good rebounder, surprisingly good finisher at the rim - but he just can't seem to get it all firing on all cylinders. He plays like he's sleepwalking through it. He's a prime candidate to see a serious drop-off in playing time next season. This offseason, it's shit or get off the pot, Jespy.
#9 Darion Atkins (previous rank: #7)
Damn those shin splints. He's was on fire early in the season, and then it all came crashing down with the injury. Good defender, nice shotblocker, sneaky good offensive player... but Anthony Gill is rotating into the equation to eat Darion's lunch.
#10 Teven Jones (previous rank: #8)
If Darion has Anthony Gill coming to eat his lunch, then Teven has Malcolm Brogdon coming to eat his lunch, Devon Hall coming to eat his breakfast, and London Perrantes coming to eat his supper. I like a lot of what Teven brings to the table, but he's simply about to be lost in the shuffle at point guard. I'm still pulling for the kid, and if we can find a redshirt for one of the freshman point guards, then Teven's minutes might still be there for him.
It was a good season. Lots of highs, lots of lows. In the end, I'd say the squad played exactly to expectations, which is a good thing.
Next year, my expectations are higher. You can't really predict what will happen in the NCAA Tournament, but this is what I'm looking for in 2013-14:
- 24+ wins
- Double-digit ACC wins
- At least one win in the ACC Tournament
- 5-seed or better in the NCAAT
- Sweet Sixteen appearance
Elsewhere, I've said "Sweet Sixteen or BUST," but that's not really fair. What is fair is saying that in year five of the Tony Bennett era, it should be a pretty good season. The roster is loaded, and it's time for us to take our rightful place among the programs that are truly relevant in the world of college basketball.