The Virginia men’s basketball team takes the court for its first game in nine months on Nov. 25. With the season opener fast approaching, Monday was a fairly busy day in the Virginia men’s basketball world.
A former star turned NBA player was traded, while the current UVa team learned two more tip times for this season. In total, four men’s basketball start times are official.
News also dropped Monday morning about the location of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
Ty Jerome traded to Thunder
Former UVa men’s basketball standout Ty Jerome was included in a blockbuster NBA trade, according to reports from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and others. Jerome is among four Phoenix Suns players being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In return for Jerome, Kelly Oubre, Ricky Rubio, Jalen Lecque and a 2022 first-round pick, the Suns receive Chris Paul and Abdel Nader.
The Thunder appear to be entering an extended rebuilding period, although it’s unclear how they view Jerome’s long-term prospects with their organization. As a member of the Suns in 2019-20, Jerome played in 31 games and averaged 3.3 points and 1.4 assists per contest.
Jerome hopes to build on his rookie season in the NBA in future months. He’ll take the court as a member of a new organization in year No. 2.
Four game times, networks set
The first four games of the Virginia men’s basketball season all have official game times and TV networks.
UVa’s season opens against Maine in Connecticut on Nov. 25. The game will tip off at 2 p.m. and will air on FloHoops.
The second game of Virginia’s season comes against Florida on Nov. 27. That game will air on ESPN. Interestingly, the Black Friday contest tips off at 11:30 a.m.
After competing in “Bubbleville” in Connecticut against Maine and Florida, Tony Bennett’s team comes home to Charlottesville. The Cavaliers host Saint Francis at 4 p.m. on Dec. 1. On Dec. 4, Virginia hosts Kent State at 6 p.m.
Both of UVa’s first two home games are set to air on the ACC Network.
NCAA Tournament changes
The NCAA announced Monday that it plans on holding the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in one single geographic location this spring, given the spread of COVID-19 and the risks associated with travel to various destinations. Currently, the NCAA is in talks with Indiana state officials to hold the tournament in the Indianapolis area.
Indianapolis was already scheduled to host this year’s Final Four.
“We have learned so much from monitoring other successful sporting events in the last several months, and it became clear it’s not feasible to manage this complex championship in so many different states with the challenges presented by the pandemic,” Dan Gavitt, NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball, said. “However, we are developing a solid plan to present a safe, responsible and fantastic March Madness tournament unlike any other we’ve experienced.”
The UVa men’s basketball team enters the season as a national title contender. The Cavaliers sit at No. 4 in the AP top 25 preseason poll, and the Cavaliers boast a lineup with experience and depth.
Kihei Clark returns at point guard, while Marquette transfer Sam Hauser steps in on the wing and Jay Huff slides into a starting center role. The talented group could play all its NCAA Tournament games in one state this spring.
NBA Draft set for Wednesday
The 2020 virtual NBA Draft takes place Wednesday, starting at 7 p.m.
UVa’s top prospect in the draft is Mamadi Diakite, who projects as a potential second-round pick. Unlike the NFL Draft, the NBA Draft lasts just two rounds. There’s a chance no UVa players are drafted in this year’s draft, depending on Diakite’s fate.
Diakite started all 30 games for UVa last season, averaging 13.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. He also blocked 1.3 shots per contest. Diakite’s biggest asset is his defensive prowess, as he showed the ability to guard both small forwards and power forwards while at UVa. He rebounds well and blocks shots effectively without fouling.
While at Virginia, Diakite’s jump shot also improved tremendously. He knocked down 35.7% of his 3-point shots a season ago. He’s still a work-in-progress on the offensive end, but his versatility and size make him a player teams may target toward the end of the second round of the draft.