Virginia basketball can start 2017 off right with strong non-con performance

It’s finally here. College basketball is back and Virginia opens its season Friday night at home against UNC Greensboro. With plenty of folks not quite sure what to expect from Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers, it will be a particularly interesting non-conference schedule for UVA.

The Cavs have 12 games before opening league play Dec. 30 against Boston College. Virginia has a challenging, but not particularly murderous non-conference schedule ahead of them. If the Wahoos enter ACC play at 10-2, they’d have to feel pretty good about where they stand.

Here’s a look at how the non-conference breaks down.



No. 10 vs. UNC Greensboro, Nov. 13 vs. Austin Peay,  Nov. 19 vs. Monmouth, Dec. 19 vs. Savannah State and Dec. 22 Hampton.

UNC Greensboro and Monmouth are solid, well-coached low-major programs and Virginia won’t want to overlook them, but these are games the Cavs should win at home, even if they don’t play their absolute best. Monmouth has to replace MAAC Player of the Year Justin Robinson, so these aren’t the same giant-killing Hawks we’ve seen in recent seasons. Austin Peay, Savannah State and Hampton should be little more than tuneups.



Dec. 2 vs. Lehigh and Dec. 16 vs. Davidson

The schedule also includes a couple of mid-majors that should give Bennett a bit more of a gauge where the Cavaliers stand and what they need to work on. Virginia should beat these teams, but an upset isn’t out of the question. These aren’t the Steph Curry days at Davidson, but with Bob McKillop you can always count on the Wildcats being among the best-coached teams in the nation.

Lehigh has a shot to win the Patriot League and get into the NCAA Tournament. Kahron Ross is one of the best point guards you’ve never heard of and should challenge the London Perrantes-les Cavs.



Nov. 17 at VCU, Nov. 23 vs. Vanderbilt (in Brooklyn)

It’s certainly not time to panic if Virginia loses either of these games, but the Cavs are definitely getting out of cake walk territory with these two. VCU could be experiencing some growing pains early in the season with a new coaching staff, but the Siegel Center will be a madhouse with the Hoos in town. Vandy returns much of the team that somewhat controversially snuck into the NCAA Tournament last year, but Virginia has played well in Brooklyn (whattup, Joe Harris?) recently.



Nov. 24 vs. Seton Hall or Rhode Island (in Brooklyn), Nov.  27 vs. Wisconsin, Dec. 5 at West Virginia

These are the games where we might find out if the Cavaliers are a potential Final Four team. If the Cavaliers get Seton Hall in the NIT Tip-off final it would essentially be a home game for a veteran, Top 25 Pirates team. Preseason polls haven’t been as kind as usual to Wisconsin, but the Badgers return Ethan Happ and have the same kind of tenacious style that’s led to Virginia’s run of success, so don’t count them out just yet. If there’s a team that can end Kansas’ run of 13-straight Big 12 titles, it’s probably West Virginia and Morgantown is a nightmare for even the best teams. If Virginia beats the Mountaineers on the road, the Cavaliers are legit.


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