Special by Rob Daniels for theACC.com
This is a transitional year for a program that hadn't experienced a change on the bench since 1977, when future Hall of Fame coach Debbie Ryan took the reins from Dan Bonner, now well known to ACC fans as a television commentator. It is generally acknowledged that the school hit a home run in hiring Joanne Boyle of Cal to take over, but with no returnees averaging double figures in scoring, it's hard to declare the Cavaliers as immediate contenders.
Boyle, a former Duke player, built a winner in UC-Berkeley, which means she created a successful operation in some of the longest shadows in the sport, cast by Stanford, the rival across San Francisco Bay. Included in the Bears' rise was a 26-point win over the Virginia Cavaliers in the second round of the 2009 NCAA tournament, a result that no doubt caught the attention of an administration that knew, at some point, it would need a replacement for the acclaimed Coach Ryan.
Virginia has, at the very least, offensive balance. Three Cavs averaged between 9.0 and 9.7 points a game last year. The key here will be shot selection. Ataira Franklin went 43-of-90 (.478) from downtown last season and will probably need to look for the long ball more often. At the same time, the Cavs will seek to develop a mid-range game, looking in particular to post player Chelsea Shine. If Virginia can get a handle on the match-up zone, one of Boyle's preferred options; it will give itself a chance to stay in most games.
As is common in coaching changes, the Cavaliers are short on bodies. They have nine available scholarship players, a number that leaves no room for misfortune. It does, however, mean spirited practices because each player knows she's a candidate for playing time. Generally speaking, the Cavs don't have an obvious go-to player at this stage, and they'll probably need to discover one by January.