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Indiana Guard Armaan Franklin Joins UVa Backcourt

The Virginia men's basketball program took a step toward fortifying its backcourt Thursday when University of Indiana guard Armaan Franklin confirmed that he is transferring to UVa.

Franklin started 20 games for the Hoosiers, averaging 11.4 points while shooting 42.4 percent on 3-pointers.

His commitment to UVa followed the dismissal of Indiana coach Archie Miller, whose team went 12-14 this past season. Indiana's choice of Mike Woodson as Miller's successor apparently did not affect Franklin's decision.

Franklin, a product of Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, had offers from Ohio State and Purdue, as well as Clemson and Louisville, as he was coming out of high school.

Franklin led the Indiana team in assists this year with 68 in 21 games and shot 42.9 percent overall.

Virginia's only returning double-figure scorer, with 11.6 points per game, is 6-9 Trey Murphy III, who was 52-of-120 from behind the arc. It is not for certain that he will pass up a final season of eligibility and turn pro after beginning his career at Rice.

UVa guards Casey Morsell and Jabri Abdur-Rahim earlier had entered the NCAA transfer portal, along with forward Justin McKoy.

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Mark Byington To Speak At Roanoke Sports Club April 19

First-year James Madison men's basketball coach Mark Byington, who was scheduled to speak to the Roanoke Sports Club prior to the season, will take advantage of the recent loosening of COVID restrictions on social gatherings, and make his first appearance before the group April 19 at the Salem Civic Center.

The Dukes finished 13-7 this past season under Byington, who took over for Louis Rowe, who was not retained after JMU went 9-20 in 2019-2020 and posted a 43-85 record over four sub-.500 seasons.

Matt Lewis, a 6-5 senior from Bishop O'Connell, had a team-high 19.7 points per game this past season and was first on the team in assists, as well as second in rebounds per game and steals.

After a 3-4 start, JMU won 10 of its next 11 games. Byington, the state player of the year when he was a senior at Salem High School, previously had gone 131-97 as the head coach at Georgia Southern before accepting the job at JMU.

Recruiting

Gonzaga, which was on the brink of an NCAA championship after going undefeated in its first 29 games, received a late March commitment from the nation's top-rated point guard for 2021-22, 6-5 Hunter Sallis from Omaha, Nebraska.

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The Transfer Portal: UVa Needs To Take As Much As It Gives

More than four months have passed since Virginia opened the 2020-21 men's basketball season in "Bubbleville" at the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Connecticut.

The Cavaliers used 17 players that November day in an 89-54 rout of Towson.

Although it wasn't in the post-game notes, that might be the all-time, one-game UVa high for participation.

The group included 13 scholarship players, which is the Division I basketball limit, and four walk-ons.

Most were underclassmen and it appeared that Virginia was set with the addition of a recruiting class that was ranked No. 19 in the country by rivals.com.

That was then and this is now. In a matter of days, top 2019 signee Casey Morsell and top 2020 signee Jamir Abdur-Rahim entered the transfer portal, as did a second 2019 signee, Justin McKoy.

Of the eight players who logged more than 200 minutes or more, leading scorer Sam Hauser has applied for the NBA Draft and 7-footer Jay Huff is headed in that direction.

Who's left?

Honorable mention All-ACC performer Kihei Clark should be back for a fourth year in 2021-2022, but who else is there?

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College Notebook: VMI Season "Greatest Story In All Sports"

VMI has received few tributes to rival the recent comments passed along by former Keydets football coach Jim Reid this past weekend.

Reid also was the head football coach at Massachusetts and Richmond, where he was the head coach from 1995-2003, including a 10-3 season in 2000.

He served as the VMI head coach for two seasons, 2006-2007, where his teams went 3-19. He later was an assistant with the Miami Dolphins, Virginia, Iowa and Boston College.

Clearly, Reid knows his way around the Mid-Atlantic, and has followed a current five-game VMI winning streak under head coach Scott Wachenheim and a No. 10 spot in the Football Championship Subdivision poll that is headed by James Madison at 4-0.

"This is the greatest story in all of sports; not just this year, but perhaps in a decade," Reid posted on Twitter this weekend after VMI's 36-31 victory at Wofford.

It was one of three VMI victories on the road and marked the fourth time VMI has scored 30 points or more. With 31.8 points per game, VMI ranks 20th out of 95 FCS teams in scoring offense.

Wachenheim's background has been on the offensive side of the ball, including stints as the offensive coordinator at Liberty and offensive-line coach at Virginia.

Parham To Arkansas State

Greg Parham, who averaged a team-leading 18.4 points per game for VMI's basketball this season, has chosen to spend his final season of eligibility at Arkansas State.

Parham, who goes by his middle name of Alden was redshirted early in his career at VMI  but could not play for the Keydets in 2021-2022 because VMI does not have a postgraduate curriculum.

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UVA Will Need More Backcourt Firepower Next Season

If one thing jumps out at me in reviewing the Virginia men's basketball season, it would be the lack of offensive firepower at the guard position, most notably from the 3-point line and beyond.

Of the three players who led the Cavaliers in 3-point attempts, only one, Trey Murphy III, is listed as a guard, and he's 6-foot-9.

For the season, more than 60 percent of Virginia's 3-point attempts were launched by three players -- Sam Hauser, who is listed at 6-8; Murphy and 7-2 Jay Huff.

Hauser's team-leading 63 made 3-pointers were more than guards Kihei Clark, Reece Beekman, Tomas Woldetensae and Casey Morsell combined.

None was bigger than the 3-pointer Reece Beekman nailed at the buzzer in a 72-69 victory over Syracuse in the ACC Tournament, but he was 0-for-5 until that point, including 0-for-3 on 3-pointers.

Clark and Beekman were 1-2 on the team in assists, but Clark, for one, doesn't hesitate to shoot. He was 16-of-52 from the field in the last six games, including a 3-for-10 outing against Ohio in UVa's first-round NCAA Tournament loss.

Allowances made by the NCAA as the result of COVID-19 would suggest that almost everybody could return next year, although that would be a sixth year for Huff and a fifth year for Hauser, who almost assuredly would test the NBA waters.

In that event, where would Virginia go for its offense? Murphy, a transfer from Rice who didn't know that he would be eligible this year until the last moment, would be a start.

Woldetenesae is an interesting case in that he spent two years in junior college, but if I'm reading that situation correctly, he could be back. He was seventh on the team in minutes played this year, but he seemed to disappear at times.

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College Notebook: Recruiting, The Portal and More

You had to wonder why more ACC men's basketball programs didn't jump after Jay Heath before he signed with Boston College out of Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C.

There should be more action now with word that Heath has entered the transfer portal.

Heath, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, averaged a team-leading 14.5 points and had a team-high 42 made 3-pointers for the Eagles, who finished 4-16 and ended the season without six-year head coach Jim Christian.

The Eagles completed the season with Christian assistant Scott Spinelli at the helm and ultimately selected Earl Grant as their new head coach.

Grant, most recently the head coach at the College of Charleston, was an assistant at Winthrop and Wichita State . He has an ACC background after years as an assistant at Clemson.

One of his coaching mentors was Gregg Marshall, who resigned under pressure as Wichita State head coach prior to the 2020-21 season.

After eight straight seasons of 20 wins or more, Wichita State finished 16-6 under Isaac Brown, who was promoted to interim coach following Marshall's resignation and later elevated to head coach.

The Portal and More

Playing time wasn't an issue for Au'Diese Toney, the University of Pittsburgh junior who entered the NCAA Transfer portal earlier this week.

Toney, a 6-6 swingman out of Huntsville, Ala., averaged a team-high 34.9 minutes per game for the Panthers and led the team in scoring with 14.4 points per game.

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College Notebook: Virginia Wasn't Alone In Its COVID Fears

Virginia wasn't alone in its fears upon learning of a positive COVID test coming out of  the UVa camp on the eve of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

"It was a really tough couple of hours when I saw that Virginia tested positive and we played them less than 24 hours before that," said Syracuse senior Marek Dolezaj following a 72-69 last-second loss to UVa at the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C.

"It was a really hard season and it can get to anyone -- Kansas, Duke, Virginia. There could be more teams. So, we're just happy that we were all negative and now we're trying to keep ourselves safe."

AS SPECULATED in last week's column, former Virginia men's basketball Dave Leitao did not survive a second tour as the head coach at DePaul.

Leitao was 63-60 in four seasons at UVa prior to his dismissal following a 10-18 season in 2008-2009.

As Virginia filled that vacancy with Tony Bennett, Leitao returned to DePaul, where a three-year 58-34 record between 2002-2005 had landed him the Virginia job.

In his return to DePaul, Leitao was 69-112 overall and 21-84 in Big East play and a four-year extension negotiated last spring couldn't help him. 

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UVa Not Worried About How Much They're Favored By

One topic that Virginia is likely to shy away from this week is the betting line.

The Cavaliers (18-6) are 10-point favorites over first-round NCAA West Region opponent Ohio (16-7) at 7 p.m. Saturday in Bloomington, Ind.

If you don't believe in betting lines, consider that Virginia is a No. 4 seed and Ohio is a No. 13 seed.

That's giving Ohio more credit than UVa opponent Maryland-Baltimore County received prior to its 2018 game with Virginia, which was a number one seed at the time.

In the first instance of a No. 16 seed beating a No. 1 seed, UMBC defeated the Cavaliers 74-54 at the Charlotte Coliseum.

 Jay Huff and fellow fifth-year UVa senior Austin Katstra were on that UVa team, although neither played against the Retrievers.

Almost as memorable as a No. 1 seed losing to a 16 seed was the Cavaliers coming back to win the 2019 NCAA championship one year later.

The most prominent returnees from that team are Huff and point guard Kihei Clark, starters on this year's team.

There was a question whether the Cavaliers would play this week after it was reported that a Virginia player had tested positive for COVID-19 following a 72-69 victory over Syracuse in an ACC Tournament quarterfinal.

Virginia's scheduled semifinal game with Georgia Tech was called off and a number of issues had to be resolved prior to Sunday's announcement of the pairings.

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Take Note Virginia: Don't Take Ohio University Lightly

Virginia's first-round NCAA Tournament match-up with Ohio University should not be taken lightly.

The teams have played three times, with the Bobcats winning twice, including a 94-83 victory at University Hall on Nov. 15, 1994.

That Virginia team would go on to finish 25-9 with Jeff Jones as head coach and reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Jones was 0-1 against the Bobcats and successor Pete Gillen was 1-1.          

Ohio U. coaches during that time included Danny Nee, Larry Hunter and Tim O'Shea. Nee later was the head coach at Nebraska for 14 years.

Ohio has been a  steppingstone for coaches like John Groce, who went from Ohio U. to Illinois, and Jim Christian, the head coach at Boston College before his recent in-season dismissal.

Current head coach Jeff Boals, who played at Ohio U., was the head coach at Stony Brook until 2019. Boals' mentors include Ohio State head coach Thad Motta.

The most celebrated player to come out of Ohio U. is Gary Trent, who was known as the Shaq of the MAC and was a three-time, first-team Mid-America Conference pic, as well as a first-round NBA Draft pick.

His son, Gary Trent Jr., played at Duke.

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COVID Issue Hasn't Necessarily Ended UVa's Season

Reports of a COVID issue that has ended Virginia's ACC Tournament run haven't necessarily ended the Cavaliers' season:

From UVa Head Coach Tony Bennett: “We went from an exhilarating game-winning shot to beat Syracuse to a gut punch regarding the positive COVID-19 test within our program. I’m hurting for our players, especially our seniors. I told our young men they have every reason to be disappointed, but it is still very important how they choose to respond. We are exhausting all options to participate in the NCAA Tournament.”

From UVa Athletic Director Carla Williams: “This is incredibly disappointing for our players. They have done what has been asked of them in very challenging circumstances. It is unfortunate the ACC Tournament has concluded for us, but we have turned our attention to the NCAA Tournament. We are in communication with the appropriate officials regarding our participation.”

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Reece Beekman Now Has His Signature Moment

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Despite starting 19 games and logging close to 700 minutes for Virginia this season, Reece Beekman entered postseason play without a signature moment.

He has one now, and it's not likely to be forgotten any time soon.

Beekman, a freshman guard, had missed all five of his field-goal attempts before letting loose from the right wing for a 3-pointer as time expired Thursday in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals.

At that point, top-seeded Virginia was looking at overtime against a Syracuse team that had won six of its previous eight games, the last three in a row. Instead, UVa prevailed 72-69.

As the Cavaliers held for a final shot, nobody was more open than Beekman, who was 2-3 steps outside the 3-point line before taking a pass from Kihei Clark.

That gave UVa (18-6) a spot in the semifinals against fourth-seeded Georgia Tech at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Greensboro Coliseum. The Yellow Jackets (16-8) advanced with a 70-66 victory over Miami.

At 5 foot-9, Clark, a junior, is nominally the Cavaliers' point guard and has a team-leading 110 assists but, with an average of 9.5 points per game, is more of a scorer than his taller backcourt mate, Beekman, who is averaging just 4.7 points per game.

At 6-foot-3, Beekman has shown the ability to defend taller lead guards who otherwise might tower over Clark. Beekman has 29 steals and no other Virginia player has as many as 20. It didn't appear as if he was calling for the ball on his game-winning shot.

"It's crazy," said Beekman, who took off downcourt and was mobbed by teammates as the final horn sounded. "That was my first-ever, like, game-winner.

"It was just a lot of energy that came over me. And a lot of joy. That's what I can say about that."

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