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Making Sense Of The ACC Coastal Division: No. 7 Virginia Cavaliers

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The Virginia Cavaliers finished in last place in the Coastal division last year. Unfortunately for Cavaliers fans, they are also the odds-on favorite to remain in last place in 2014.

However, the ACC Coastal division is famously unpredictable. As balanced as the division is, a team with three conference losses could end up playing in the ACC Championship. That would still require a major leap forward for Virginia but, at this time of the year, hope springs eternal.

Why Virginia could win the Coastal division

Under head coach Mike London, Virginia’s recruiting has been much better than its performance on the field. If a few of the elite prospects London was able to lure to Virginia start performing as well as they were expected to, Virginia could see a major turnaround.

The Cavaliers are also playing for their coach. London is likely done if he doesn’t turn things around this season. The players know that. A decent record with an upset or two might be enough to keep him around. And if the division continues to be a mess, it could mean a division championship as well. It’s unlikely that they can win the division outright, but a multi-way tie for first is not completely out of the question.

Why Virginia could end up in last place

The ACC didn’t do London any favors this year. In their cross-divisional games, the Cavaliers get the Louisville Cardinals and the Florida State Seminoles. Virginia already had an uphill battle ahead of it to escape the Coastal division basement without having to take on two of the Atlantic division’s best as well.

Virginia also has a number of problems to fix. The defense was among the worst in the conference last year, and will need to improve significantly. The Cavaliers’ passing game also looks like it could continue to be a mess in 2014.

The incumbent quarterback, David Watford, was officially benched this spring in favor of sophomore Greyson Lambert. Lambert will be throwing to a group of receivers who did not put up strong numbers last season, and things got significantly worse when their leading receiver, tight end Jake McGee, decided to transfer. They don’t need to resolve all of the issues that plagued them last year, but getting the passing game going will be a must.

Prediction

The Cavaliers will most likely end up finishing last in the division again, and London will be sent packing. As well as he has recruited at Virginia, they don’t have the talent to stand up to Florida State and Louisville in their cross-division games, and they remain a step behind the rest of the pack in the balanced Coastal division.

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There's No Longer Any Reason To Believe In UVA





Two weeks ago, the Virginia Cavaliers stood at 4-2, 2-0 in the ACC. Given how bad the rest of the Coastal Division seemed to be, there was optimism that UVA would at least finish above .500 on the season, perhaps make a bowl game, and if everything broke right, stay in contention for the Coastal Division title and a berth in the ACC Championship Game.

However, a 20-13 loss at Duke last week slowed that momentum, and Saturday’s 28-27 home loss to North Carolina not only ended any optimism, but it squarely turns the heat back up on head coach Mike London and his coaching staff.

Virginia wasn’t drastically outplayed today, and actually led the game 24-21 at halftime; however, as was the case for much of the second half — and several times over the last few years — a simple mistake cost the Cavaliers big time. With 1:17 to play and exiting a timeout, North Carolina lined up for a field goal that would have made it 31-27, leaving UVA at least a chance to win.

Instead, Virginia came out of the break with 12 men on the field. Carolina got a first down on the penalty and subsequently ran out the clock.

Such mistakes are the type you see when teams are led by rookie coaches, and while London is young, he isn’t a rookie. As fans streamed out of Scott Stadium in the final minute, with Virginia resigned to the type of befuddling loss that the Cavaliers seem to suffer at least twice a season, it became clear that this isn’t going to change.

The 8-5 season in 2011 was a mirage. Other than that, London is now 14-30 in Charlottesville. Despite his well-earned reputation as a top recruiter, he and his coaching staff either don’t use their talent properly, or don’t manage the fine points of the game that can cause a team to win or lose.

The penalty for too many men on the game’s most crucial play proves that the more things change, the more things they stay the same in Charlottesville. And with games left against Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech, finding a reason to believe is going to be difficult for Virginia fans moving forward — if they pay attention at all.

Ed Morgans is an ACC Basketball Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @writered21 and add him to your network on Google.

Virginia football's failings can no longer be hidden after home loss to UNC.

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