March 21, 2007
CHARLOTTESVILLE Upon entering the postseason with 20 victories, a share of the ACC regular-season championship and its first NCAA bid since 2001, what was left for Virginia to prove?
The Cavaliers had to show that they could beat 13th-seeded Albany. Once UVa got past the Great Danes, 84-57, it was an unqualified successful season.
As a fourth seed playing fifth-seeded Tennessee, UVa (21-10) technically was the favorite to advance to the NCAA South Region final, but the Cavaliers fell 77-74 to the Volunteers.
The Cavs led by as many as 11 points in the first half at Nationwide Arena, but they never looked as if they had the Vols under control. Tennessee came back to take a 10-point second-half lead before the Cavs came within a last-second Sean Singletary three-pointer of sending the game into overtime.
Virginia was a team that was going to go as far as its veteran backcourt could take it, and never was that more evident than in the final game, when senior wing guard J.R. Reynolds had 22 points at the half and nobody else had more than four. Singletary had 13 of his 19 points in the second half, when Reynolds played 20 minutes on a sprained ankle but managed only two field goals, both from inside the three-point arc.
Junior forward Adrian Joseph came off the bench to score 10 points, all in the second half. Post man Jason Cain, the team's only other scholarship senior, made nine of 10 free throws.
None of Virginia's four post players scored from the field, and that remains a problem for UVa looking ahead to 2007-08.
Tunji Soroye, a 6-11, 245-pound junior, had a pair of free throws and three rebounds to show for his 21 minutes. Soroye also blocked three shots, but his inability to perform such simple tasks as catching the ball and dunking continues to rank him as a big question mark.
Another post man, sophomore Lauris Mikalauskas, has the ability to score around the basket but picked up four fouls in seven minutes against Tennessee.
Singletary, one of five players in UVa history to make first-team All-ACC twice, reiterated after the finale that he plans to return for his senior year. He might attend some pre-draft camps, he said, but will not hire an agent.
Singletary underwent surgery after his freshman year for a shoulder injury and had hip surgery following his sophomore year. He looks forward to working on his game during the offseason for the first time since getting to Virginia.
Three of UVa's four fall signees were guards Jeff Jones, Mustapha Farrakhan and Sam Zeglinski and there should be somebody in that group who can fill some of the void left by Reynolds. Calvin Baker, the leading scorer for William & Mary as a freshman in 2005-06, is another backcourt option.
One player seemingly at a crossroads is 6-5 wing Mamadi Diane, who will be a junior. Diane, who finished the season as UVa's third-leading scorer, was averaging 9.9 points before missing all four of his shots from the field and going scoreless against Tennessee.
It must be noted that Diane did an outstanding job on Tennessee's Chris Lofton, holding him without a field goal in the second half. Diane also drew the defensive assignment against Albany's high-scoring Jamar Wilson in the first round, but his offensive inconsistency must be maddening to the coaches. He also plays much better at home than he does on the road.
The Cavaliers remain in the chase for 6-8 Patrick Patterson from Huntington, W.Va., but the competition (Florida, Kentucky, Duke) is stiff. With the Patterson decision pending, the Cavaliers may go into 2007-08 with a post selection of Soroye, Mikalauskas, Ryan Pettinella (a Pennsylvania transfer who shot 24.3 percent from the line) and seldom-used Jerome Meyinsse.
That's why the Cavaliers might want to refine the post skills of Jamil Tucker, a 6-9 freshman who played primarily on the perimeter, going 21-of-43 on three-pointers. Late fall signee Mike Scott has some smooth inside moves, but his lanky, 6-8 frame is going to need some bulk to survive the ACC wars.
GROH CHANGES ONLY ONE AIDE
After losing four assistant coaches in 2006, Virginia football coach Al Groh needed to fill only one position this year.
Groh, who had lost receivers coach John Garrett to the Dallas Cowboys, made the natural choice and tapped 32-year-old Richmond offensive coordinator Wayne Lineburg to fill Garrett's spot.
There was no indication that Groh had conducted any formal interviews before going after Lineburg, a 1996 Virginia graduate who was a walk-on quarterback during his UVa career.
Lineburg returned to Virginia as a graduate assistant before spending time on the staffs at William & Mary and Richmond. His father, Norman Lineburg, won more than 300 games before his retirement this year at Radford High and is a member of the Virginia High School League Hall of Fame.
Virginia might have thought it would lose Garrett to the Cowboys after his brother, Jason, was named Dallas' offensive coordinator. There had been murmurs of friction between John Garrett and UVa offensive coordinator Mike Groh, but in the end Garrett received an opportunity he could not turn down.
Mike Groh was the UVa starting quarterback when Lineburg was one of the backups, so they started with a pre-existing relationship. Moreover, Lineburg would come back for the Cavaliers' summer camp while he was working at William & Mary and Richmond.
Lineburg has wide-ranging in-state recruiting contacts and the experience of working at schools that stress academics. On the flip side, he has worked with wide receivers for only one year, that coming when he was a UVa grad assistant.
His familiarity with the Virginia system means that Groh won't spend as much time coaching the coaches, as he did last year, when four aides took new jobs, including both coordinators. It was fortunate for UVa that valuable defensive coordinator Mike London took his name out of consideration at Division I-AA Old Dominion, and that running backs coach Anthony Poindexter rejected an NFL overture.
Lineburg inherited a receiving corps headed by Kevin Ogletree, who had more than 50 receptions as a sophomore. A big question as the Cavaliers began spring practice was the identity of the backup to quarterback Jameel Sewell.
Two quarterbacks who started games in 2006, Christian Olsen and Kevin McCabe, will not return. Olsen exhausted his eligibility, and an unhappy McCabe transferred to Division II California-Pennsylvania.