"It's very exciting," says Auburn senior forward Korvotney Barber. "It's going to be a big test for us since they're a good ACC team and they're a lot bigger than we are. We have a lot of quickness, so we'll have to use our quickness to our advantage. It's going to be a big test for us to go on the road and play in a hostile environment."
Auburn had its share of disappointing early season losses to Mercer, Northern Iowa and Dayton before taking off 11 days for exams. The Tigers beat Tuskegee 75-32 in their return to action and head coach Jeff Lebo says his team is at a point in the season where they can find out if they have what it takes to have a successful 2008-2009 season.
"Certainly making a good showing and coming away with a win would be very helpful," Lebo explains. "We had a couple of disappointing losses. Against Dayton we could have easily won that if we could have made some foul shots. Against Northern Iowa I didn't think we played particularly well at all that entire game.
"I think you find out a lot about your team after 10 or 11 games in," the head coach continues. "I think you find out more about your team and you know what you've got. We're going to have to make some adjustments to get the best players on the court. (There is) one way you think you want to play, and then after you play some games you want to make some changes and tweak your style. We're still trying to find that area. I don't think offensively we've played the way we're capable of playing yet."
Virginia, which beat Longwood 90-61 on Wednesday in its return to action after 15 days off, relies heavily on freshman swingman Sylven Landesberg.
The 6-6 guard/forward has scored 28, 21, 22 and 20 points in the Cavaliers four wins and 17, 16 and 10 in the three losses.
"He's one of the main topics of the day," Barber says about preparations for Virginia. "He was a McDonald's All-American. He can do a lot–shoot, penetrate, do it all. We're going to have to play him honest. Coach (Lebo) had a lot of good things to say about him."
Landesberg is just 3-11 on three-point attempts this year, but can get to the basket and the foul line. He's attempted 55 free throws in seven games and converted on 43.
"You've got to try to keep him out of there," Lebo says about his penetrating ability. "That's easy to say and hard to do.
"He's a very, very skilled player. I love his skill level and his ability to put the ball on the floor," Lebo adds. "He's very smooth with it. He's excellent in the open court, he can get to the basket, he gets to the foul line, he's a good foul shooter. You can see why he's a McDonald's All-American. He's going to be a tremendous player there for Virginia for the next three or four years, however long he decides to stay there."
Landesberg is averging 19.1 points and 6.1 rebounds.
The second-leading scorer for Virginia is another freshman, guard Sammy Zeglinski, who is averaging 13.3 points and 3.7 assists. The Cavaliers are muscular and tall inside with Mike Scott (6-8, 233), Jamil Tucker (6-9, 241) and Assane Sene (7-0, 234).
Virginia plays its home games in the John Paul Jones Arena, which opened in the summer of 2006 replacing University Hall. Lebo has some good and some bad memories from the old arena.
"I've got a lot of good old memories there," Lebo says. "I remember I hurt my ankle there one game. I played pretty well and hurt my ankle. I visited Virginia out of high school and Coach (Terry) Holland was there and recruiting me pretty hard. I took an official visit there and it was a place I was very, very impressed with. It was fairly close to my home, so I certainly followed Virginia basketball for a long, long time. I have a lot of fond memories of going back there and playing at North Carolina also."