13 Virginia A badly needed infusion of muscle should make the Cavaliers tougher to beat

Nov. 19, 2001
Nov. 19, 2001

Table of Contents
Nov. 19, 2001

College Basketball Preview 2001-02

13 Virginia A badly needed infusion of muscle should make the Cavaliers tougher to beat

When it came to lighting up opponents, Virginia was as
electrifying as any team in the country last season. Its 85.0
points per game were fourth best in the nation. When it came to
shutting foes down, however, Virginia's attitude was a little
too cavalier. Witness its .498 field goal percentage defense,
last in the ACC. Most galling, Virginia could not outscore its
final opponent, Gonzaga, which made 56.3% of its three-point
attempts en route to beating the Cavaliers by one point in the
first round of the NCAA tournament. "We played no defense last
year--none," 6'5" senior swingman Adam Hall says. "We thought we
could just outscore people, but we learned we couldn't."

This is an article from the Nov. 19, 2001 issue Original Layout

Part of the trouble for Virginia was its lack of size. Often the
Cavaliers played what amounted to a four-guard offense, with
6'8", 255-pound Travis Watson manning the post. Curiously enough,
they led the ACC in rebounding margin (+5.6), but sending so many
players to help on the boards left them vulnerable on defense.

Now Virginia will get some assistance inside from freshman Elton
Brown, a highly skilled 6'9" 265-pounder who should infuse the
Cavaliers with some much-needed toughness. That was apparent
during the first week of practice, when coach Pete Gillen had to
cut short a scrimmage after Brown and 6'8" sophomore J.C. Mathis
almost came to blows.

The challenge for Gillen is to make sure that infighting doesn't
cause the Cavaliers' downfall. "We have plenty of talent," says
Gillen, "but chemistry is a concern. If the older guys start
worrying about their pro careers, that's a problem."

Virginia has four starters back, so putting points on the board
shouldn't be a problem. First, however, the Cavaliers will again
have to overcome the loss of point guard Majestic Mapp, who
missed all of last year after tearing the ACL in his right knee.
Mapp's knee never fully healed, and he will be out for the second
straight year after having surgery. Until 6'3" freshman Keith
Jenifer is ready to take over--Gillen hopes that will be by
mid-January--the position will be manned by 6'5" junior Roger
Mason, who ably backed up Donald Hand last year.

Though his surname suggests a proficiency in bricklaying, Mason,
Virginia's leading scorer (15.7 points a game) last season,
displayed a soft touch, draining 44.2% of his three-point
attempts while also leading the ACC in free throw shooting
(88.4%). He should get plenty of help from Hall, who averaged
10.1 points, and Chris Williams (14.5).

If the addition of Brown and memories of last season's early
demise aren't enough to get the Cavaliers to stiffen their
defense, the seniors can simply recall the humiliations they
suffered three years ago during a 4-12 ACC campaign. "I've still
got vengeance on my mind from when people used to leave their
starters in when they were beating us by 50," Hall says. "It's
our turn now."


COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER Watson often had to fend for himself against taller front lines, but he was the ACC's second-leading rebounder with 9.1 a game--and he'll get more help this year.



SF Chris Williams 6'7" Sr. 14.5 ppg[#]
PF J.C. Mathis 6'8" So. 3.4 ppg
C Travis Watson 6'8" Jr. 9.1 rpg[#]
SG Adam Hall 6'5" Sr. 10.1 ppg[#]
PG Roger Mason 6'5" Jr. 15.7 ppg[#]

2000-01 record: 20-9
Final rank (coaches' poll): No. 21
[#]Returning starter


COMMENT: Fourth-year coach Pete Gillen has cleaned up program
that had several unsavory episodes under Jeff Jones. NCAA docked
Cavaliers one scholarship this season and three campus visits
last year after Jones was cited for arranging for booster to pay
rent of recruit Melvin Whitaker in 1996. (Whitaker never played
for Virginia; he pleaded guilty to malicious wounding in
slashing of a Cavaliers football player.) In 1997 guard Courtney
Alexander transferred after being found guilty of assault and
battery of girlfriend. (He spent two days in jail.)