Virginia earned the final No. 1 seed from the NCAA Tournament selection committee, beating out Big Ten champion Michigan State for the spot. In the end, it doesn’t really matter, as the Cavaliers and Spartans were placed in the same bracket. UVA has been eliminated by Michigan State in each of the past two seasons, so I’m sure they were thrilled about that.
These Cavs probably aren’t as talented as they were last year, when they had bruising forward Justin Anderson, but the nucleus of that group remains, and led this team to a 26-7 record and a second-place finish in the ACC (13-5).
Senior guard Malcolm Brogdon (18.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.8 apg) won the ACC Player of the Year award. He’s a consistent scorer, having put up 20-plus points 16 times this season. 6-8 senior forward Anthony Gill also adds some scoring and rebounding punch, averaging 13.3 and 6.1 per. Junior guard London Perrantes (11 ppg, 3 rpg, 4.4 apg) is another heady player and terrific defender, which is an apt description for most of these guys.
This team is known for its defense, and it didn’t disappoint this year, either as Virginia allows the second-fewest points to opponents in the country (59.2).
So, can Virginia actually break through and reach the Final Four for the first time since the Ralph Sampson days?
We think the Cavaliers are good enough defensively to get past either Butler or Texas Tech in the second round, and we wouldn’t be concerned with either one against UVA. This team should reach the Sweet 16, but there it’ll face a steep challenge in either Purdue or Iowa State.
Purdue has a ton of size and also grinds you out with defense. Iowa State is terrific offensively, with do-everything big man Georges Niang and explosive guard Monte Morris.
Either of these teams could orchestrate an upset, but we think UVA is stingy enough to advance. Third-seeded Utah could give them problems, with seven-footer Jakob Poeltl being one of the best bigs in the country.
PREDICTION: UVA advances to the Elite Eight, but the Spartans are once again too tough for this squad. They do what Virginia does, only better, and they’ll have the best player on the floor in Denzel Valentine, who is a National Player of the Year candidate. Michigan State scores just enough, and devastates the Cavaliers for the third straight year. People in Charlottesville are going to hate the state of Michigan.