Before I get to it, I want to say two very important things:
1) We have an awesome coach in Tony Bennett. In no way, shape, or form am I suggesting anything otherwise. I love Tony. I appreciate Tony.
2) History is littered with teams and programs that bubbled up to challenge Duke and UNC atop the ACC hierarchy, but failed to deliver on long-term promise to become truly elite-level college basketball powerhouses. Consider:
- NC State under Jim Valvano in the late '80s
- Georgia Tech under Bobby Cremins in the late '80s / early '90s
- Wake Forest under Dave Odom in the early-to-mid '90s
- Clemson under Rick Barnes in the mid '90s
- Maryland under Gary Williams in the late '90s/early 2000s
- Georgia Tech under Paul Hewitt in the early 2000s
- Wake Forest under Skip Prosser in the early 2000s
- Florida State, very sporadically, under Leonard Hamilton
- Miami, very sporadically, under Jim Larrañaga
Is "Virginia under Tony Bennett from 2012 to 2016" the latest to join that list?
Have we plateaued?
Have we seen the last of our specific and profound challenge to the ACC hegemony?
Or have we - under Bennett - and along with conference newcomers Syracuse and Louisville - officially joined that hegemony... always and forever?
It might all hang in the balance, as Tony faces two huge tests here in 2017...
Test #1 -- With three games left in the regular season, plus the ACC Tournament, plus the NCAA Tournament, can Tony coach this flawed, limited team to another winning record in ACC play, to the ACC semis, and to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament?
Test #2 -- With as many as five scholarships to offer in the 2018 recruiting class, can Tony deliver the goods on a top-25 type of haul, including at least one top-50 and two top-100 talents?
|Meet Jahvon Quinerly, probably THE single most|
important recruit for our 2018 class.
Not saying he can pass these tests, not saying he can't. Not saying he will or he won't. The results remain to be seen, which is why I call them "tests." But make no mistake -- it's all on Tony right now.
He passes both tests, and I'm willing to say that Virginia Basketball is special, and something better than any of those 'almost-were' programs I listed above.
I'm nervous as hell, but I can't wait to see what happens.