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Looking ahead: London Perrantes will be key to Virginia's future joy

It’s never too early to look at what’s to come. Over the next few weeks, we will give you a peek at what is ahead for teams in the Power 5 conferences and some other teams expected to be players on the national scene. Today: Virginia

When last we left Tony Bennett, he was quoting an old church hymn in an effort to erase the sting from an NCAA tournament collapse that, because of the team involved, was perhaps more stunning than Northern Iowa’s epic flameout.

Virginia, a team filled with seniors and built on a style that is designed to squeeze the life out of the ball, first lost its composure and then its first Final Four since Ralph Sampson. Faced with a press that Jim Boeheim only used out of straight-up desperation, the Cavaliers completely unraveled, looking like a team filled with insecure freshmen instead of steady seniors. In the span of six dizzying minutes, Virginia went from up 15 to down six and eventually out of the tourney in stunning fashion

Left with little in the way of an explanation and two seniors who were rightfully overcome, Bennett tried instead to search for a silver lining.

"(The song) says weeping may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning," the coach said.

Bennett was referring to the joy of the journey, hoping that eventually his players would remember their full tenure at Virginia instead of those horrific six minutes.

He could, however, have been thinking ahead to this season. If the sign of a true national program is its ability to sustain itself after losing key players, the Cavaliers are officially done climbing the ladder.

They have arrived.

Virginia loses two players who have been at the epicenter of Bennett’s program reconstruction -- Anthony Gill and Malcolm Brogdon -- yet is more than equipped to keep things humming along.

Memphis transfer Austin Nichols and redshirt Mamadi Diakite, give the Cavaliers’ immediate relief inside. Nichols averaged 13 points and six rebounds before leaving the Tigers while Diakite is a one-time ESPN 100 player.

The transfer and the redshirt don’t even count toward a recruiting class that ranks seventh in the nation. That’s how loaded the Cavaliers’ future is.

Bennett brings four players, all ranked in the ESPN 100, to campus including guard Kyle Guy (ranked 24th) and Ty Jerome (42nd) who could make for a formidable backcourt for years to come.

Of course, Virginia is a bit of a different breed and for the Cavaliers, winning is about more than eye-popping statistics. For starters, the future Cavs need to know how to defend, or at least be fast learners. Virginia’s success is predicated on its ability to stop people more than outscore them. That Nichols and Diakite were in the program for a full year helps, but until everyone is on board, the learning curve will be steep.

Then, there is the completely immeasurable attribute -- leadership. Gill and Brogdon were more than just reliable scorers and smart defenders. They were the face of the program and the core of Bennett’s team values.

They epitomized how he wants his teams to play -- selflessly and intelligently -- and that takes years to learn.

That’s why as exciting as the freshmen are, as much as Nichols and Diakite might make for quick impact players, the single most critical player for Virginia is London Perrantes.

For the first three years of his career, Perrantes has been a contented third wheel, a critical player who nonetheless could hide in Gill and Brogdon’s shadows.

This is his team now and how the Cali-cool point guard handles the mantle of leadership will ultimately determine just how good Virginia can and will be.

Joy, indeed, will come in the morning but only if Perrantes can lead the Cavaliers to it.