Return to Sene-Der: Virginia Center Assane Sene Suspended Three Games
Wanted: Big Man.
In many ways Virginia basketball has had this sign up in their gym since the departure of three-time national player of the year Ralph Sampson.
Sure, others have tried to step into the big shoes. None, however, have had the same kind of impact on the program.
Nevertheless, a promising young prospect has been Assane Sene. The 7'0 Nigerian has a great deal of raw talent. While he is still relatively new to the game, Sene got a great deal of playing time as a true freshman last season.
The offensive game has been slow to develop, but Sene had quite the penchant for shot-blocking, something sorely missing in Virginia's defensive arsenal these past few seasons.
On the other hand, he also had a penchant for fouling. Sene lacked the discipline to stay in the game for long periods of time, picking up cheap fouls and earning a seat on the pine.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where Sene will be to open the season.
ESPN reports that Sene has been suspended for the first three games of the season for conduct detrimental to the team.
While no specifics were given, what's crystal clear is this: Virginia cannot afford front court losses.
The Cavaliers are already dangerously thin in the front court. Virginia's John Brandenburg transferred earlier this year, and center Tunji Soroye graduated last season.
While Virginia has a good power forward in Mike Scott, all the other Virginia big men have big question marks.
Jamil Tucker, a senior forward, is a shooter not a banger in the low post. He prefers life outside of three-point arc and, although he has the size of a big man, he does not have the style of one.
Jerome Meyinsse is a very bright kid, but he lacks the pure athleticism that marks a true ACC-caliber player.
As a result, expect to see freshman Tristan Spurlock play earlier and more often than new Cavalier coach Tony Bennett probably would have wanted.
Spurlock comes in with a fair amount of hype, but the transition from high school to college can be a bumpy road. Virginia fans certainly cannot blindly assume that Spurlock will be an instant contributor.
Therefore, what will the Virginia basketball team look like to start the season, particularly without Sene?
Clearly, Virginia will have to go small with their starting line-up. Sylven Landesberg and Mike Scott should already have their starting jobs locked up. The next question will be what to do between Jeff Jones, Sammy Zeglinski, and Calvin Baker.
Jeff Jones is perhaps the biggest question mark entering this season. While Jones has apparently benefitted the most from this coaching change, will he finally produce offensively for the Cavaliers on a consistent basis?
I think Bennett will give Jones the starting slot in the shooting guard position. That means the starting point guard battle will be between Baker and Zeglinski.
Both men have some serious strengths and weaknesses as point guards. For the opening game, I would expect Bennett to go with seniority and choose Baker. While the William & Mary transfer may not have the best ball-handling skills and has had trouble running the offense, he provides slightly better defense and does not turn the ball over as much as Zeglinski.
Hopefully, the rising sophomore can steal this starting spot with good play, but Bennett will make the Philly product earn it.
That leaves us with the other front court position. For now, I think Spurlock will get the instant start. He is probably the best option with Sene gone, and fans will get to see just how quickly he has acclimated himself to the team.
While the details behind Sene's suspension are still questioned, Virginia fans can at least take solace in knowing that questions about the team are just a few days away from being answered.
Virginia opens the season this Friday against Longwood.
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