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U.Va. R.I.P. / March 15, 2009
By Jerry Ratcliffe
Charlottesville Daily Progress
Used with permission

ATLANTA - When Dave Leitao came to Charlottesville four years ago he said that Virginia basketball had become “irrelevant” on the college basketball landscape.

Recruits paid the Cavaliers’ program no mind. March Madness had become March Sadness. It was if Charlottesville was the land that college basketball forgot.

Four seasons after Leitao took over the reins, Wahoo fans must wonder what has really changed.

Boston College finally put the Cavaliers out of their misery in the opening round of the ACC Tournament on Thursday night at the Georgia Dome, pulling off a 76-63 victory.

This time of year teams and fans are usually thinking about RPI. If you’re a Wahoo fan you’re more accustomed to relating to R.I.P.

Rest in peace, Virginia.

Rakim Sanders (23 points) and his BC teammates shoveled dirt on this 18-loss season, mercifully putting an end to a dreadful campaign that included an eight-game ACC losing streak, a home loss to Liberty, and an assortment of disappointments. About the only bright spot was the play of ACC Rookie of the Year, Sylven Landesberg.

Surrounded by a roster speckled with questionable ACC talent, the Cavaliers finished this campaign of frustration ranked dead-last in the conference in field goal percentage, field goal defense, and 3-point field goal percentage. They finished next-to-last in scoring offense and scoring defense.

On a night when Boston College’s most prolific scorer, Tyrese Rice, scored but nine points, Virginia never really threatened to pull off the upset of the sixth-seeded Eagles, who dominated underneath the basket and squelched every Cavalier attempt at coming back.

The only silver lining for Virginia on this evening was senior Mamadi Diane, who finished his career with a flurry, scoring 24 points for the second straight game. In fact, it was the first time in Diane’s career that he put together back-to-back, 20-plus point games.

This from a player who was benched for a four-game stretch late in the season, which left fans wondering what a difference he had been shown the same patience as some teammates.

While Virginia athletics director Craig Littlepage was in attendance, he has said that Leitao’s job is not in jeopardy, even though sources have confirmed that the likes of Minnesota’s Tubby Smith would be attracted to an opening.

The U.Va. administration has been resistant to hints from some of its most powerful boosters about a coaching change, but it’s clear that Wahoo Nation is extremely frustrated with the direction of the program.

Littlepage believes that a coach should have the benefit of four full recruiting classes, even though there’s little evidence that this staff has been able to attract players that can compete in the upper echelon in the ACC.

After back-to-back seasons of 5-11 and 4-12 in the ACC, Virginia fans are wondering it the program will ever reverse its fortunes.

Thursday night’s showing wasn’t very convincing that a turnaround is around the corner.

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