Record: 26-7 (13-5)
NCAA Tournament Seed: 1 (Midwest)
How they got to the Big Dance
Virginia had a bit of a rough patch in January, losing three of four at Virginia Tech, at Georgia Tech and at Florida State. For a while, it looked like the Cavaliers were going to struggle to pick up many road wins in ACC play. But their last minute miracle comeback at Wake Forest on Jan. 26 turned their season around. Since then, Virginia is 10-3, with its only losses coming at Duke on a questionable call at Miami and against North Carolina in the ACC Tournament Championship. Couple all of Virginia’s good ACC wins with its non-conference wins against West Virginia, Villanova and California, and easily got yourself a tournament team.
Why they’re a legitimate contender
Virginia plays a pack-line defensive scheme, meaning they draw an imaginary line a few feet behind the three-point line that every defender who isn’t guarding the ball stays behind. This makes it easier to help on drives and clogs the lane, and Virginia executes the pack-line scheme very successfully. The Cavaliers are second in the country in scoring defense, allowing only 59.7 points per game. In order to score effectively against Virginia, you’re going to need to be able to shoot well from outside, because driving against them is extremely difficult.
Why they aren’t a legitimate contender
Virginia’s greatest strength is its half-court defense. If the Cavaliers are matched up with a team that plays too quick for them to settle into their defensive positions, they might prove themselves difficult to handle. Also, Virginia is 12th in the ACC in scoring offense, averaging 70.8 points per game. That’s in part due to their slow pace and style, but if a team is able to speed them up and control the tempo of the game, it could be hard for Virginia to adjust.
Player to Watch – G Malcolm Brogdon
The ACC Player of the Year is one of the best players in the country offensively and defensively and he is the heart and soul of this team. He’s third in the ACC in scoring (18.8 points per game), seventh in field-goal percentage (47.8 percent), fourth in three-point percentage (41.9 percent) and might be the best defender in the country. Virginia has plenty of talented players but Brogdon is the Cavs’ main guy.