In his first season with the Virginia Cavaliers, coach Tony Bennett saw improvement with his team winning five more games than the previous year.
But injuries and departures of key players could leave the Cavaliers dangerously thin come opening day.
Junior guard Sammy Zeglinski will miss up to eight weeks after surgery to repair cartilage in his left knee. Zeglinski led the Cavaliers in 3-pointers, assists and steals in each of the past two seasons.
“We were young with him, and now we’re extremely young without him,” Bennett said at ACC Media Day.
This is a huge loss for a team that already has to deal with the departure of leading scorer Sylven Landesberg, who was not drafted by the NBA, and transfers by guards Jeff Jones and Tristan Spurlock.
But the Cavaliers were able to upset Boston College in the first round of the ACC Tournament and were able to hold eventual national champion Duke to its lowest point total of the season in a 57-46 quarterfinal loss. The Cavaliers accomplished this without Landesberg, who was suspended late in the season.
Coming off a 15-16 overall record last season and a 5-11 record in conference play, the Cavaliers will need to lean heavily on the returning upperclassmen.
Senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan preached the importance of mentoring the younger players on the team.
“We try to speak words of life to the young guys because they don’t know what to expect and just keep encouraging them to get better and they respond well to that,” Farrakhan said.