Virginia Basketball: Austin Nichols dismissed from basketball program

Virginia basketball will be awfully thin on the interior for the remainder of the 2016-17 season.

Massive news dropped on Friday evening that could change the landscape at the top of the ACC.

It was announced on Friday night that redshirt junior forward Austin Nichols has been dismissed from Virginia’s basketball program.

In his Cavalier debut against St Francis (BKN) Tuesday night, Nichols had 11 points and three rebounds in just 16 minutes. That will end up being his only game in a Virginia uniform.

While many details surrounding Nichols’ dismissal are still being sorted out, Virginia head coach Tony Bennett did make a brief statement on the matter:

“It’s a privilege to be a part of this program and Austin has lost that privilege,” Bennett said. “We have standards for our student-athletes and when those standards aren’t met, there are consequences and this is the unfortunate consequence.”

Nichols was suspended for two preseason scrimmages and the regular season opener against UNC Greensboro for a violation of team rules. He also had an ugly exit from his previous program Memphis, as he opted to transfer in the middle of the summer of 2015. Memphis tried to block the transfer, but Nichols hired an attorney, forcing the Tigers to withdraw their restrictions.

The former five-star recruit averaged 13.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game with Memphis back in 2014-15. He also recorded an AAC leading 3.4 blocks in his final year with the Tigers, which helped him earn a First-Team All Conference selection.

After sitting out the 2015-16 season, Nichols looked to be a key cog in the Virginia’s machine this year. Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey led the Cavaliers in rebounding last season, but both graduated. The loss of their contributions, along with Nichols’ dismissal, leaves Virginia very thin in the front court in an ACC that is full of talented bigs.

Virginia’s Final Four hopes are now very much in doubt and their status at the top of the ACC is also in flux. Can they compete with the Duke’s and North Carolina’s of the world without their defensive anchor and best interior scorer? Will they be as strong defensively without a true shot blocker like Nichols?

Those are all questions that have to be answered. But this is also likely the end of a promising players’ college basketball career.

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