By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — In the final fall standings for Division I, UVa remains second in the Directors’ Cup competition, which reflects the performances of schools in NCAA championships.
Stanford, a 15-time winner, leads with 370 points, and Virginia is next with 337. Rounding out the top five are UCLA (321), Penn State (318.5) and North Carolina (308).
As for the rest of the ACC, Florida State is No. 6, Maryland is No. 13, Wake Forest is No. 16, Duke is No. 18, Boston College is No. 25, Virginia Tech is No. 37, Georgia Tech is No. 63, Miami is No. 69, and Clemson and N.C. State are tied for No. 85.
Of UVa’s points, 100 came from its NCAA title in men’s soccer. For advancing to the NCAA semifinals, the field hockey team earned 83 points.
A year ago, UVa was in 11th place (with 244 points) coming out of the fall. The Wahoos finished eighth overall in 2008-09.
The first winter standings will be released March 11.
ABOUT-FACE: In 2008-09, Dave Leitao, then UVa’s coach, often bemoaned his team’s carelessness with the basketball, and with good reason.
The Cavaliers finished the season with fewer assists (348) than turnovers (413), averaging 12.4 and 14.8 in those categories, respectively. Only two ACC teams had worse assist-to-turnover ratios.
Under Leitao’s successor, Tony Bennett, empty possessions are no longer common. The Wahoos (2-0, 10-4) are averaging 14.1 assists and 10.2 turnovers.
In their 82-75 win over No. 20 Georgia Tech, the Cavaliers had only seven turnovers Wednesday night at John Paul Jones Arena.
Since arriving in Charlottesville last spring, Bennett has stressed the importance of valuing the ball. His players seem to be listening, particularly senior guard Calvin Baker.
As a junior, Baker had 78 assists and 70 turnovers. This season, he has more than three times as many assists (31) as turnovers (10).
SPEED IT UP: Bennett was Washington State’s head coach for three seasons before taking the UVa job. The Cougars ranked 208th nationally in scoring offense in 2006-07, 221st in 2007-08 and 314th last season.
The Cavaliers are more athletic and play at a faster pace than those WSU teams did, as the numbers indicate. UVa came into the week ranked 157th nationally in scoring offense (70.2 ppg). The Georgia Tech game raised Virginia’s average to 71 points.
“We can definitely get out and run,” junior guard Mustapha Farrakhan said. “We just have to see the right timing for it.”
From his first day at UVa, Bennett noted, he’s said he wants his players to look for opportunities to score in transition.
“Absolutely. Go,” Bennett said Wednesday. “Just make good decisions on the end of it.”
Opinions varied on whether a first-half play by junior Mike Scott qualified. On a breakaway, the 6-8 Scott flipped the ball up, leaped to catch it and then threw down a one-handed dunk.
On the air, former Cavaliers guard Cory Alexander, now the analyst on radio broadcasts of UVa games, applauded Scott’s creativity.
On the bench, Bennett did not look as pleased. Asked afterward about Scott’s move, Bennett said, “He’s lucky he wasn’t called for a travel.”
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: In 6-9 Gani Lawal and 6-10 Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech has two big men who figure to play in the NBA. Given the lack of depth in his frontcourt — UVa has only four post players — Bennett preached the importance of staying out of foul trouble.
They did as instructed. No Cavalier fouled out Wednesday. Jerome Meyinsse was called for four personals and Will Sherrill for three, but Assane Sene had only one, and Scott had none.
“We work real hard on position defense,” Bennett said. “Whether we trapped them in the post with a big-on-big trap or it was one-on-one, we tried to give them a little help. But [the big men were told to] ‘really concentrate on staying down. Don’t get lifted. Make them make plays over the top. Play with your hands up, your feet set and your chest into them. Don’t give the officials a chance to make questionable calls.'”
HAPPY CAMPERS: Virginia is 2-0 in the ACC for the first time since 1994-95, and much of the credit must go to Bennett, whose players are starting to embrace his coaching philosophy.
Bennett, who was a sharp-shooting point guard, had a brief NBA career after starring at Wisconsin-Green Bay.
“He’s just a players’ coach,” junior guard Jeff Jones said. “He knows how you’re feeling, because he’s been there. He knows what it takes. He knows everything about the game. So it’s good to have a coach that’s been there and been through his ups and downs. It’s good. It’s good to have him.”
Sophomore guard Sammy Zeglinski said: “He’s always under control. He always believes in his game plan. I think we’ve really bought in, and we trust him to coach the game for 40 minutes. He’s always composed, and it shows by his body language on the bench.”
ON THE GRIDIRON: Few people are better qualified than Chris Slade to talk about Shawn Moore. They were football teammates at UVa, where each was an All-American, and they remain best friends who call each other daily.
“We’re almost like girls, man,” Slade said with a laugh. “We sit on the phone and talk all the time.”
Moore, of course, is returning to his alma mater as an assistant coach on Mike London’s new staff. Before leaving St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., however, he discussed his options with Slade.
“I know it took him a long time to make his decision, because it’s a big move, but I think it’ll be good for him and for the school,” Slade said. “Shawn wanted to come back to the University and work and get this program back to where it was.”
Slade grew up in the Tidewater area. So did another one of London’s hires, Kecoughtan High graduate Chip West, who’s known as a superb recruiter.
“Talk about a guy with the gift of gab!” said Slade, a Tabb High graduate. “I’ve known Chip West since I was in the eighth grade. We played AAU ball together for Boo Williams, played against each other in high school.
“Chip even stole a few of my high school dates. I’m still mad about that. He had a better rap than I did.”
TIMETABLE? London was in Orlando, Fla., early in the week for the American Football Coaches Association’s annual convention. He has two slots to fill on his staff.
“I’m down here talking to a couple [offensive] coordinators and, again, trying to get a feel for things,” London said Tuesday afternoon. “I would say by the end of the week or first of next week, I plan on at least if not having them [at UVa], having them named.”
In hiring his assistant coaches, London said, he’s “just trying to collect good men, good coaches and good teachers. And the way the staff is working out, no one’s kind of caught up in their title, per se.”
On the weekend that starts Jan. 22, London and Co. will host many of the recruits who have committed to UVa for 2010, as well as some targets in that class.
“It’s important to get those last two guys [in place by then],” London said, so the high school players know who’ll be coaching which positions at UVa.
BRING IT ON: London is looking forward to working with track-and-field coach Jason Vigilante at UVa.
“I help him, and he helps me,” London said.
If a football player wants to run sprints or throw the shot or compete in some other event, that’s fine with London.
“Just go to an ACC meet,” he said, “and you see Florida State and Miami’s secondary and wide receivers running.
“I’m not caught up in all that other stuff. Whether it’s track or basketball or whatever, there’s something about just competition and competing. You’re running. You’re running fast, and you’re learning how to run.”
LESS THAN IDEAL: The women’s basketball team lost Monday night to Maryland, and Debbie Ryan would have been happy had the Cavaliers (0-2 ACC, 11-5 overall) played again this week.
“This is not a good time for a break,” Ryan said. “We’re in a rhythm now, and it’s easier to keep playing, but we’ll make the best of the time that we have and try to regroup and get back out there.”
UVa’s next game is Monday night at Virginia Tech.
Of her team’s 0-2 start in ACC play, Ryan said, “We dug ourselves a hole, that’s for sure, and we’re going to have to get ourselves out of it. This was one we really needed to get tonight, and we put a lot of emphasis on [the Maryland] game. Not that we don’t put that on every single game, but this was important, and our team knew it was important.”
CHANGING OF THE GUARD: Ryan was asked Monday about Teresa Sullivan, who will replace John Casteen as UVa’s president.
“I have two things to say about that,” Ryan said. “The first thing is, it’s been a privilege and an honor to work for John Casteen over the last 20 years. He’s been a great role model for me and for everybody who works here at the University of Virginia.
“As far as Teresa Sullivan, I’d like to say directly to her, ‘You go, girl!’ I’m very proud of the fact that the University of Virginia hired a female president, and I hope we give her all the support she needs to be successful.”