Wahoos Ready to Handle High Expectations

By: Lindsay Joy Email
By: Lindsay Joy Email

If the Virginia basketball team continues its upward trend under head coach Tony Bennett, the Cavaliers could be in line for a special season this year.

Bennett's teams have increased their win total in each of his first four seasons on the UVa bench, including last year's 23-12 performance that ended with a run to the NIT quarterfinals.

Seniors Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell have been a part of Bennett's last three UVa teams. Both players were representing the program at ACC media day on Wednesday in Charlotte.

"Our goal is to make it to the postseason, to improve off what we built on last year," Harris said. "So far, as Akil and I have been in this program we've improved every year, and it's not any different for our goals for this coming year."

The expectations for that coming season got a little bigger on Wednesday, with the media voting the Cavaliers fourth in the ACC's preseason poll. But as they have throughout the past few weeks, Bennett and his players downplayed those expectations.

"I think you have to have expectations to finish well, to get to postseason play, advance, all those things," Bennett said. "But in saying that there better be a balance of, we use the term falling in love with the process, because that's, how do you reach those expectations? How do you get as good as you can? And that's just improving in each moment, in each day."

"We can really sense an excitement level around the fan base, around grounds" said Mitchell. "But it doesn't really, I don't think it's impacted us as much. We understand that what we have to do to be successful is the same things that we had to do in the past."

That fourth-place prediction matches the best spot for the Cavaliers in Bennett's tenure as coach. UVa was also picked to finish fourth in the league two years ago, when Harris and Mitchell were sophomores.

That team ended up making the only NCAA Tournament appearance to date under Bennett.

"We've worked hard to get our program to a spot where we have experience and depth," Bennett said. "And we're looking forward to the challenges, knowing in this league, you better be good or you're going to be in trouble, because of the addition of the teams and the quality of players and coaches in the ACC."

"There are those expectations. But we're just worrying about what we can control," said Harris. "And that's trying to improve every day, be the best team we can be, and worrying about the now rather than the expectations that might be put on us."

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