By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — After six years at Washington State, Tony Bennett left Pullman last spring for the University of Virginia. He thought he’d be working in the South and coaching in the ACC.
Now he’s not so sure.
“This isn’t the Big Ten, is it? Or the Alaskan league?” Bennett said with a smile Tuesday afternoon in the loading dock at John Paul Jones Arena.
Forgive UVa’s first-year coach if he feels a little disoriented. Mother Nature has many around the Commonwealth wondering if they’ve somehow moved to Minnesota.
Virginia (5-3, 14-7) was scheduled to play ACC rival Maryland (6-2, 16-6) in men’s basketball Wednesday night in College Park, which like the rest of the D.C. area had been battered by a blizzard over the weekend.
With more snow predicted to hit the region, including Charlottesville, Bennett’s basketball team left for Maryland a day early, pulling out of the JPJ lot around 7:30 p.m. Monday.
About 19 hours later, the same Abbott bus unloaded the traveling party back at JPJ.
In between, the Wahoos spent the night at a hotel in Greenbelt, Md. They were only a short drive from College Park, but the ‘Hoos never took the court against the Terrapins, never even practiced.
After discussions involving officials from the two universities and the ACC, word came at about 10:45 a.m. Tuesday that the game had been postponed because of concerns about the approaching storm and the state of roads, sidewalks and parking lots on Maryland’s campus.
UVa’s players were notified after breakfast at the hotel Tuesday morning.
“We were all very upset,” sophomore Sylven Landesberg said. “We really wanted to play this game. They’re at the top of the ACC right now, and it would have been a great game to test where we’re at. It’s unfortunate that we were not able to go through with the game and it has to be postponed.”
“I know a lot of Maryland graduates, and they were going to be coming to the game, and there was just a lot of trash-talking going on.”
The game has been rescheduled for Monday at Maryland’s Comcast Center. This marks the second time in Bennett’s first season at UVa that one of his team’s games has been postponed because of a snowstorm.
Virginia was scheduled to host UNC Wilmington on Dec. 19, but the game was pushed back to Jan. 18 after a record-setting snowstorm hammered Charlottesville.
“In my 10 years at Wisconsin and Washington State, between the two of them, I don’t think a game was ever cancelled or postponed,” Bennett said, shaking his head.
It doesn’t happen often in the ACC either, but this season has been anything but ordinary. And now the ‘Hoos head into a stretch in which they’ll play four games in eight days, starting this weekend in Blacksburg.
Virginia Tech hosts UVa at 8 p.m. Saturday at Cassell Coliseum. Then come, in quick succession, the makeup game in College Park, a Feb. 17 date with Florida State at JPJ and a Feb. 20 visit to Clemson.
“You make the best of it,” Bennett said. “You get to this point and hopefully our preparation leading up to this will have helped us, and you roll with the punches.”
In November, UVa played four games in seven days and won three of them, so “maybe our early-season experiences will prove big for us,” Bennett said. “We hope so.”
The Cavaliers, who have yet to meet Maryland, have ample time to ready themselves for their rematch with Virginia Tech. The Hokies beat UVa in overtime Jan. 28 at John Paul Jones Arena.
“We’ll just try and get as ready as we can,” said Bennett, a former Charlotte Hornet. “Now we have a break, but then the games come fast. It’s like the NBA again, so you better lace ’em up.”
Virginia is coming off an overtime loss to Wake Forest. That game was played Saturday afternoon at JPJ, the day after more than a foot of snow fell in Charlottesville.
The Demon Deacons came to town early to beat the storm, and the ACC allowed the game to proceed as scheduled. That was part of the reason the ‘Hoos traveled to Maryland on Monday night.
“We went up a day early because we thought if we had both teams there, and the officials present, that we would play it,” Bennett said. “It’s kind of what Wake Forest did for our game.”
Did he worry that the game would be postponed?
“Once we got up there, I didn’t think so, quite honestly,” Bennett said “But how can you predict what’s going to happen with the weather? I thought once we got there the game would go on, and maybe there wouldn’t be as many Maryland fans.”
He smiled again.
“Which would have been a plus,” Bennett said.