By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Its 2010-11 opener is not until Nov. 12, but the UVa men’s basketball team is about to take its first road trip of the season.
After practice Friday, the Cavaliers will head to Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport. Second-year coach Tony Bennett’s team will board a plane there and fly to his native Wisconsin.
The Wahoos’ destination is Milwaukee, where they will scrimmage Big East member Marquette on Saturday. The scrimmage, which will consist of a morning session and an afternoon session, is closed, and no statistics will be released afterward.
As much as possible, Bennett said after practice Thursday, the team will approach the scrimmage as it would a regular-season road game.
With junior guard Sammy Zeglinski recovering from knee surgery, more than half of UVa’s healthy scholarship players (6 of 11) are freshmen, and they’ll be introduced to the procedure the team follows on the road. At the team hotel, athletic trainer Ethan Saliba will tape players’ ankles, and the coaching staff will go over a short scouting report on Marquette.
“We’ll use it as a trial run, especially with so many new guys and so many good road games early in our season,” Bennett said.
Indeed, only two of Virginia’s first eight games will be at John Paul Jones Arena: Nov. 12 against William and Mary and three nights later against USC Upstate.
Asked if his team is where he hoped it would be heading into this scrimmage, Bennett said, “I’m not sure. We’ve practiced pretty hard, and I think the scrimmage will be a really good opportunity, as everybody always says, to play against someone other than yourselves, see a different kind of team.
“I think we’ve had some promising practices and a couple practices where there’s some holes, some areas of improvement that certainly need to be addressed. So I think it’ll be revealing in a lot of ways, and good for everybody to get some real good competition.”
Marquette went 22-12 in 2009-10 and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the fifth straight season.
A year ago, UVa had two closed scrimmages in the preseason, one against St. John’s, the other against Marquette. Both were in Charlottesville.
“It was good,” Bennett said, “because they played different styles. Marquette was pretty good last year. They were quick, and they played four guards. St. John’s was pretty physical, so we saw two different teams.”
A scrimmage “always gives you a feel,” said Bennett, whose first team at UVa finished 15-16.
“We’ll come back and I’ll say, ‘OK, we’re closing in on a game. We gotta work on these areas.’ It really reveals. It shows you what you’ve got to address, because there’s things you can’t expose them to except in a real intense setting. Maybe some guys emerge, hopefully. Everyone will get opportunities. It’s not the end-all, be-all, but it’s a great measuring stick early in the year when you need to get some answers.”
Instead of having a second scrimmage this year, Bennett opted for an exhibition game. UVa will host Division III Roanoke College at JPJ on Nov. 6 at 4 p.m.