| ||Tuesday, March 14|
Special to ESPN.com
|These are two programs at vastly different places on the college basketball spectrum. Virginia sees only bright colors because things are looking up under Pete Gillen. Last season, when Gillen had a bartender playing minutes for him, is a distant memory. Gillen now has the dilemma of having to keep players happy with less playing time, instead of finding new places to be found staring when his players were begging for a sub. Virginia can now come at foes in waves, instead of in harmless ripples.
Minnesota, on the other hand, has gone through nine months of agony. The questions raised about academic fraud, allegations of further wrongdoing in the conduct of the investigation, and the unseemly departure of Clem Haskins have clouded the program, and no doubt, clouded the minds of the young men that remain on the roster. Virginia is the stronger team at this stage, but will face a stern test against Joel Przybilla, a 7-foot-1 shot-blocking machine.
When Virginia has the ball
The big guns for Virginia last season were Chris Williams, a smooth and very active wing forward who can shoot with range. Williams is a finesse player, but tough, with a solid mid-range game. With the new talent around him, Williams can now blend in around them instead of having to do it all himself.
Donald Hand and Chezley Watson return, and both had solid seasons in 1999. Hand has good quickness with open-court ability, and Watson is a physical defender who can get into the lane. Adam Hall is a great athlete with unreal potential as a defender. Hall is a high-wire act with guts and good instincts.
Majestic Mapp is a pure point guard who has a pass first mentality and pretty good range on his shot. Actually, Mapp has been called Ed Cota with a jumper. Roger Mason and Travis Watson will add new dimensions to this team. Mason is a slasher who looked stunning in preseason workouts, and Watson is a big-time rebounder, aggressive and tough. Watson was 31-0 last season at Oak Hill Academy on his way to Parade All-American honors.
When Minnesota has the ball
Dan Monson had a fine group of shooters at Gonzaga, and he used his point guard Quentin Hall to break down defenses to kick the ball out to well-spaced shooters who had knock-down ability. Clearly this season, Monson will try to get the ball inside to Joel Przybilla, who was primarily a shot-blocker and rebounder last season. Przybilla has worked on his offensive game and has developed some more refined and reliable post moves.
Terrance Simmons emerged over the summer on a team trip to Europe as a leader and the likely choice at point guard. J.B. Bickerstaff, the transfer from Oregon State, has scoring ability and can create his own shot. Kevin Nathaniel and Mitch Ohnstad were both somewhat erratic shooters last season, and both need to step forward and be factors.
Minnesota has more questions than answers early, and this game will provide Monson with a gauge on what he needs to do to get this team competitive.
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