ACC TIPOFF: Tech men hungry to build off ACC title; UVA’s returning talent to be tested early

Both squads open up the season Monday, November 7.
Published: Oct. 12, 2022 at 10:16 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WDBJ) - The ACC Men’s Basketball Tipoff rolled back in to the Queen City Wednesday and, for the first time ever, it was the Hokies who received the royal treatment.

Yes, the Hokies’ four-day run in Brooklyn at last year’s ACC Tournament was special, but the returning Tech players also remember what they endured before they got there.

The team lost its first four, and seven of its first nine, ACC games, and March hero Hunter Cattoor says the reigning conference champs have to be ready to turn the page.

“Win or lose, there’s so much more to improve on and so much more to prove out there,” said Cattoor at Wednesday’s ACC Tipoff. “Winning an ACC championship going into this year, we want to win an ACC championship, we want to make a run in the NCAA tournament, so I think you can never get complacent just because you won one year. Because the next year, it kind of goes on. You got to do the same thing again.”

Returning 6-foot-7-inch forward Justyn Mutts likes what he sees from a Virginia Tech roster that lost leading scorer Keve Aluma, but gained depth elsewhere.

“All 15 of those guys can play,” said Mutts, who made the decision to return for his final year of eligibility. “All 15 of those guys could step on the floor right now and play. With guys like that that are also, every single day, pushing us, there’s no slacking. You have to, every single day, regardless of who you’re guarding, you have to be up. You’ve got to be aware. You’ve got to be present.”

At Virginia, the Cavs bring back almost all of their scoring from last season, which ended in the NIT quarterfinals.

Entering year five, Kihei Clark is the final holdover who played for Tony Bennett’s 2019 national champs, and he sees promise in this group that has largely stuck together.

“We definitely show flashes of it in practice now and just trying to be continuous,” said Clark. “Breakdowns are gonna’ happen, but being able to cover for each other and trust that the next guy is going to be in the right position, I think that’s important for our defense to thrive.”

The team spent part of its summer overseas in Italy, playing against pro competition.

Jayden Gardner, UVA’s leading scorer last season, said that trip helped ready this team for what’s to come.

“Going to Italy and having the 10 practices and also competing against Italy teams, it just gets us ahead of the schedule,” said Gardner. “So we’re already playing against competition. We have the blue-white scrimmage, then we get in our two scrimmage games, so hopefully we’ll get ahead of the curve so when we start to play these big opponents, we’ll be ready for them. So I’m excited.”

Both squads open up on Monday, November 7, with Tech hosting Delaware State and UVA taking on North Carolina Central.