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Virginia Cavaliers

THE LOWDOWN

Head Coach: Pete Gillen
2003-04 Record: 18-13 (6-10 ACC)
ACC Finish: t-7th
Key Losses: G Todd Billet (9.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 3.2 apg), G/F Derrick Byars (7.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.2 apg)
Postseason: NIT: Defeated George Washington 79-66, lost to Villanova 73-63 in the second round

RETURNEES
(returning starters in bold)
No. Name Pos. Ht. Yr. Pts.
15 T.J. Bannister G 5'10" So. 3.6
43 Elton Brown F/C 6'9" Sr. 14.8
32 Jason Cain F 6'9" So. 1.9
12 Billy Campbell G 6'0" Jr. 0.0
34 Jason Clark F 6'8" Sr. 4.5
23 Gary Forbes G/F 6'6" So. 7.6
22 Robert Lodge G 6'4" Jr. 0.7
55 Donte Minter F/C 6'7" So. 5.6
2 J.R. Reynolds G 6'2" So. 9.4
33 Devin Smith F 6'5" Sr. 12.2
Complete 2003-04 Team Stats
FRESH FACES
No. Name Pos. Ht.
30 Adrian Joseph F 6'7"
44 Sean Singletary G 5'11"
21 Tunji Soroye C 6'11"

At most programs, an 18-13 record is considered a pretty decent mark, especially if it is a two-win improvement over the previous season.

It almost got Virginia coach Pete Gillen fired.

Record aside, Gillen's sins were finishing eighth in the nine-team ACC and failing to make the NCAA tournament for the third straight year. After a two-week "thorough review" of the program, athletics director Craig Littlepage announced that Gillen had his full support.

Two things saved Gillen's job: Virginia won three games over ranked teams in the final two weeks of the regular season, and there's a general sense that with many young players returning, a strong recruiting class, and a new arena under construction, the program is headed in the right direction.

But make no mistake -- if Virginia is perceived as underachieving this year or backsliding in any way, the Gillen era could be over. Gillen knows it, and Virginia fans know it. "Virginia wants to have a great team," Gillen said. "That's the way it should be."

The Cavaliers might not have the makings of a great team, but they appear to have enough talent and experience to reach the NCAA tournament. Of course, the same thing was said about Virginia each of the last three years.

FRONTCOURT

Elton Brown is not shy about touting himself as one of the best low-post players in the ACC, if not the country. The outspoken Brown looked unstoppable at times last year, but he needs to be more consistent and rebound better to live up to his own billing. Still, it's hard to imagine there's a coach in the league who wouldn't want the 6-foot-9, 251-pound senior.

Devin Smith was arguably the team's best player last year despite playing the entire season with a herniated disc in his back. Smith had surgery in the off-season, and if he recovers fully, the 6-5 small forward could easily lead the team in scoring.

Donte Minter, who showed a nice touch around the basket as a freshman, should back up Brown. Jason Clark, who missed the first part of the season for academic reasons, is the team's resident tough guy. He's a rugged defender and rebounder.

Jason Cain, a skilled but slender sophomore, might have redshirted this year had Derrick Byars not transferred after last season. Now, Cain's services might be needed.

BACKCOURT

Finally, a real point guard. Virginia hasn't had one since Donald Hand graduated in 2001, and the Cavs have had to make do with converted wing players like Roger Mason Jr. and Todd Billet manning the position.

That's why Gillen is so excited about freshman Sean Singletary of Philadelphia, who was considered one of the top high school point guards in the nation last year. "He's quick, and he's strong, and he's going to play a lot," Gillen said.

So will sophomore T.J. Bannister, who might have been the biggest surprise on the team last year. Bannister was a late recruit who appeared to be slotted as a career backup. Instead, he turned out to be a 5-10 spark plug. His entry into the starting lineup coincided with Virginia's late-season surge.

Gillen has options on the wing, too, with sophomores J.R. Reynolds and Gary Forbes returning. Reynolds broke into the starting lineup midway through the season and gave the team another outside scoring threat, as well as a tough defender. He was named to the ACC's All-Freshman team. The 6-6 Forbes, one of the team's most athletic players, started quickly then faded. He can also play small forward.

FINAL ANALYSIS

Gillen wants to play a faster style, and this team should be quicker and more athletic than last year's. Virginia made progress defensively last season and can't afford to return to the days when opponents routinely shot 50 percent or better.

All the pieces appear to be in place for improvement, but there are no guarantees in the tough ACC. The out-of-conference schedule has been upgraded as well.

"We have a chance to be an exciting team," Gillen said. "We have a good chance of making the NCAA tournament, if we stay healthy. We know we're playing good competition, but we're heading in the right direction."

If not, Gillen could be headed out the door.

Click here for complete index of 2004-05 Athlon Team Previews


To purchase the 2004 College Basketball Preview from Athlon Sports, click here.

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