If ever a team needed a get-right game, it's Virginia. And if any opponent were made to order, it's Fairleigh Dickinson.
On Saturday afternoon in Charlottesville, Va., when the Cavaliers (6-4) take on the Knights (0-9), the hosts will look to remedy their lack of cohesion, not a surprise considering how little the starting five has played together.
It was particularly evident Tuesday in a 52-49 loss at James Madison, Virginia's third defeat this season to a non-Power 5 conference school.
"We've known since the beginning of the season there's going to be ups and downs. We're a new team and haven't played together much," Cavaliers forward Kadin Shedrick said. "Our goal is not to be our best right now, but to be our best at the end of the season."
Virginia's customary stingy defense has been there. The Cavaliers have surrendered the fewest points per game (55.8) of any team in the Atlantic Coast Conference. But they also rank in the bottom four in scoring (61.0), field-goal shooting (43.3 percent) and 3-point shooting (30.2 percent).
East Carolina transfer Jayden Gardner has made a major impact, leading Virginia in scoring (13.9 points) and rebounds (8.5) per game. But the Cavaliers have struggled to incorporate Indiana transfer Armaan Franklin (11.3 ppg) into the offense as he has missed his last 19 shots from beyond the arc.
Fairleigh Dickinson is just three years removed from making the NCAA Tournament as champion of the Northeast Conference. But the Knights have bottomed out this year, though the deck was stacked against them when they started the season with eight straight road games.
Even after Fairleigh Dickinson trailed all the way in a 72-54 loss to Fairfield in its home opener on Wednesday night, Knights coach Greg Herenda was undaunted.
"Believe it or not, I am even more excited about our team now than ever," Herenda said. "I can see this team being very good sooner than you think, but it still is going to take a great deal of work."
Brandon Rush (13.8 points per game) is the top threat on a team that favors small ball, playing up-tempo and shuttling players in and out of the lineup. Eleven players average at least 10 minutes per game.
--Field Level Media