There was some unfortunate news out of Virginia late Tuesday night, when the school announced that starting point guard Jontel Evans underwent surgery on a stress fracture in his right foot. His recovery is expected to take about six weeks.
At the risk of utilizing a well-worn cliché, albeit one that doesn't apply to injuries, there is good news and bad news in the announcement. The bad news is rather obvious. Evans' injury will cost him basically the entirety of early practices and training camp over the next month and a half, after which he will have to get up to speed (literally and figuratively) quickly enough to make an impact on the Cavaliers' all-important nonconference schedule.
It will push freshman guards Teven Jones and Taylor Barnette into the spotlight at the start of the season, and could force sophomore combo guard Malcolm Brogdon to take on greater ballhandling responsibilities in the interim. This requires a rather large adjustment, one that the Cavaliers will have to just-as-quickly reverse when Evans returns in mid-November in advance of its NIT Season Tipoff games against Fairfield and either Penn or Delaware.
But the good news probably outweighs all that. The timing of Evans' injury isn't ideal, but it's much better that the stress fracture was diagnosed and treated now, as opposed to, say, in November, or nearer the start of the ACC season. Evans is a valuable contributor on both ends of the floor, where he was an All-ACC defender and led the team in assists and assist rate (27.2 percent) last season. Besides, it never hurts to nudge freshmen toward key roles early in their careers -- trial by fire, to use another cliché -- in time for Bennett to orient them to his specific brand of pack-line defense that served Virginia (2012's No. 6-rated defense in adjusted efficiency) so well in 2012-13.
Because without star forward Mike Scott, who was really the Cavaliers' only truly effective offensive threat in 2012, Virginia's chances of getting back to the NCAA tournament in 2013 will be almost entirely reliant on its defense. Evans will be key to that effort when he returns from injury. For now, his understudies can prepare for the role.