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Virginia Men's Basketball

Five Things That Will Soon Shape Virginia’s 2021-22 Outlook

Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

Virginia’s season unfortunately came to an abrupt end on Saturday, as it does for nearly every team in the NCAA Tournament. There’s no time for self pity in this business, however. The coaching staff will immediately shift focus toward next season. First, they need to determine who’s coming back. Then, recruit to fill holes. This is expected to be an unusually active Spring that will have huge implications for next season’s outlook.

Repeat Seniors?

Due to all the irregularities of this season brought on by the pandemic, it doesn’t count against each player’s four years of eligibility.  That means Jay Huff, Sam Hauser, Tomas Woldetensae, and Austin Katstra have the option to return.  They wouldn’t even count toward the scholarship limit.   While it seems unlikely to happen, there hasn’t been any definitive indication yet.  Tony Bennett said he would wait until after the season to discuss the topic with them. 

It’s too early to say for sure, but so far it looks like the extra year will be used mostly by mid-major players.  Many of them with the intention of transferring.  There are a few at the highest level who have already decided to stay though. Notably, Providence star Nate Watson announced that he’ll stick around. 

Huff and Hauser have legitimate NBA hopes. They’re both listed as fringe draft picks on most expert boards.  Woldetensae should have opportunities overseas if he chooses.   It would certainly change the outlook for next season and Virginia’s interest in pursuing incoming transfers if any of the three surprised us by taking advantage of the extra year.  

One and Done?

Trey Murphy originally planned to redshirt this year after transferring from Rice.   Now, there’s a very real possibility it’ll be his only season at Virginia.  He was granted a waiver by the NCAA on the eve of the season opener in November.  Zach Carey had the full story here on Locker Room Access.   Since then, the 6’9 sharpshooter’s stock has continued to climb in the eyes of pro scouts. 

His offensive efficiency improved across the board despite facing more difficult competition in the ACC.  The combination of size, athleticism, and shooting is rare.  Add in his growth as a defender over the course of the season, and you have an NBA 3&D wing.  It’s a league of mostly role players.  He has the obvious potential to fill an important role.  There’s still some development needed, but teams are willing to take on finishing that themselves.  Especially if they can get him at a discount from where his draft position could be in another year.  

It’s setting up as a tough decision for Murphy and his family.  We might not know the answer for a while.  He could go through the pre-draft process before making his final verdict.  Mock drafts have him as a late second round pick.  From what we’ve heard, he would almost certainly be selected.  Maybe quite a bit higher than current projections.  

Transfer Surge

It’s going to be a record breaking year for transfers around college basketball.  And that’s an understatement.  There have already been 678 Division-1 players entered into the portal as of Sunday night, according to VerbalCommits.com.  Last season’s total of 1026 will probably be passed before the Final Four starts.   The surge is largely a result of an expected NCAA rule change allowing immediate eligibility to first-time transfers.  

With Virginia’s season now over, the players will examine their futures.  It’s doubtful that we’ll avoid the chaos entirely.  Hopefully the losses will be limited, but there likely will be outgoing transfers.  Coach Bennett always holds meetings with individual players within a few weeks of the season’s end.  In the past, that’s usually when we learn who has decided to leave.  However, it’s a much simpler process now with the transfer portal.  Players no longer need to ask for a release from schools.  

Late Recruiting

Virginia will be very active in recruiting incoming transfers.  I recently wrote about what their needs would be for next season.  We’re already seeing evidence of that plan being enacted through reports of players they’ve contacted.  The next month or so will be wild on that front.  Expect to read a lot of names here as they cycle through.  Things will move fast.   Before you know it, we’ll probably have a couple new Wahoos. 

So far, UVA has reportedly contacted six transfers. Half are from one school. Justin Powell from Auburn and Izaiah Brockington from Penn State are both scoring guards with good size.  Penn State’s leading scorer, 6’3 guard Myreon Jones, mentioned UVA this morning. Tari Eason from Cincinnati and Greg Gantt from Providence are athletic power forwards.  One guard and one forward seem to be firmly on the agenda. The other player they’ve been connected to is Seth Lundy, a versatile combo forward from Penn State.  Adding someone like him might be dependent on whether Trey Murphy stays or goes.  

This is all very preliminary.  Right now, the main takeaway isn’t so much the specific names as the type of players.  Their blueprint so far is pretty close to what we expected. Oh and don’t forget, Trevor Keels is set to announce his college choice on April 4th.

Williford Watch

The coaching carousel has started spinning.  Associate Head Coach Jason Williford is a hot commodity right now. He’s been speculated as a candidate for openings at George Mason and College of Charleston. This isn’t a new development. It’s been an annual Spring storyline recently. He’s believed to have turned down opportunities the past couple years.

Williford is the last remaining member of Bennett’s original coaching staff. Former assistants Ritchie McKay and Ron Sanchez left to run programs at Liberty and Charlotte respectively. Jason is up next. His time is surely coming. It’s just a question of when the right job is offered his way. He’s always said it would take something very special for him to consider leaving his alma mater.

(Image: Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)

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