The Virginia Cavaliers will have a tough time matching the success of the 2013-14 ACC basketball season after winning the regular season and tournament titles. The Cavaliers will need to find new team leaders after all-around star guard Joe Harris and athletic forward Akil Mitchell both graduated.
The likely frontrunner to fill that void will be the team’s leading scorer Malcolm Brogdon, but he will have to develop mentally if he is going to handle that task. Brogdon may try to do too much offensively in an effort to fill the space left by Harris, but what he will need to focus on is his defense.
Brogdon can be a tenacious defender who can guard multiple positions. Coach Tony Bennett loves slowing the game down with defense and Brogdon can take the spot at the head of the table if he comes into the 2014-15 NCAA basketball season with the mindset of an All-ACC defender.
Virginia was one of the best in the nation on defense as the Cavaliers led all of college basketball in scoring defense — held opponents to only 55 points per game. The Cavaliers did this mostly for two reasons. They were able to control the game offensively with a scheme that allowed every player to touch the ball, and that led to a balanced attack.
On defense, the Cavaliers would frustrate teams with man-to-man defense from the half-court line on. Every player would get right up on his opponent and every shot was contested. Brogdon is great at anticipating passes and guards a variety of players. If he can keep his intensity up on that level, he will show others it takes skills on both ends to be a winner.
Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey will need to protect the rim inside with solid post defense that does not necessarily mean blocking shots. Virginia will compete with any team in the conference by holding opponents to one-and-done on offense by grabbing rebounds effectively and keeping teams from getting loose on fast breaks.
Luckily for UVA fans, the team is coached to play that way and while no one will pick the Cavs to win the league next year, no one picked the team last year either.