Virginia: 2017 March Madness

Conference: ACC (At-Large)

Record: 22-10 (11-7)

NCAA Tournament Seed: 5 (East)

How they got to the Big Dance

The Cavaliers opened up the season ranked No. 8 in the preseason polls and started off 7-0 with wins over Iowa, Providence and Ohio State. Their bid for a perfect season came to an end with a loss to West Virginia. They then won their next three games and entered conference play with a 10-1 record. Virginia had an up and down season in the ACC, as they recorded wins over Louisville (twice), Notre Dame and North Carolina but suffered losses to Florida State, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Duke, Miami and Syracuse. The Cavaliers also lost by two to Villanova in January on a last second shot. When Virginia was at its best during the season, it was due to their defense performing at an elite level. Known for their slow pace and swarming defense, Tony Bennett’s team once again won games without lighting up the scoreboard. Senior guard London Perrantes was the only one Virginia player who averaged double figures during the regular season. The Cavaliers only gave up an average of 55.6 points per contest, which helped them earn another 20-win season and the six seed in the conference tournament. After taking down Pittsburgh in the second round, they were knocked out by Notre Dame in the quarterfinals, who eventually lost to Duke in the championship.

Why they’re a legitimate contender

Virginia’s chances at a title run start and end with their defense. The Cavaliers rank in the top 5 in scoring defense and are in the top 20 in defensive field goal percentage. Virginia’s defense also has no problem stepping up against explosive offensive teams as they held Louisville, Notre Dame and North Carolina all under 60 points. UVA will also have a veteran ball handler on the court in senior London Perrantes. Perrantes, who averages 12.5 points per game, will be asked to do a lot for this team during the tournament. The senior guard will be Virginia’s number one scoring option and will look to distribute the ball as well, as he leads the team in assists. Virginia’s offense will need to step up to compliment the defense, and that starts with Perrantes at the point.

Why they’re not a legitimate contender

The Cavaliers’ less than prolific offense could be a problem come tournament time. Besides Perrantes, the next leading scorer for Virginia is Devon Hall who only scores around 8.7 points per game. The lack of a second scorer has caused problems all year for UVA as they only average 66 points per contest which ranks them outside the top 300 in Division I. During the season, the Cavaliers were held to under 60 points nine times and in two of those games they did not even reach the 50-point mark. Their defense may be one of the best in the nation, but if the offense can’t pick up the slack on the other end, it will be hard for Virginia to keep up with other teams.

Player to watch: Guard Kyle Guy

Guy, a freshman guard, has only started three games for Virginia, but he could be their most important player in the tournament. Guy only averages 7.8 points per game but shoots 50 percent from three. With his back-to-back performances of 19 and 17 points, Guy has propelled himself into the starting lineup as he averaged 14 points in the Cavaliers last three games of the regular season. If he can continue his strong play, he could become a dangerous offensive weapon that the Virginia offense is looking for to make a run.