2017-2018 Record: 31-3, 17-1 1st in the ACC
Head Coach: Tony Bennett
The previous season for the Cavaliers was something to take notice of. Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy were incredible throughout the season and ACC Sixth Man of the Year De’Andre Hunter helped translate their unranked status at the beginning of the year into the number one overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Unfortunately the Cavaliers lost in devastating fashion in the first-round to UMBC, 74-54. The first team number one seed in history to lose to a number sixteen seed. Going into the season Virginia retained its core players while Tony Bennett’s pack-line defence was meant to ensure that stopping the ball became a priority.
The knock on the Cavaliers was that they are a front-loaded team. Meaning that they have top-tier talent in the most valuable positions, but they are lacking depth for their squad. Such bench problems are generally what sets teams back from big recruiting colleges like North Carolina and Duke in the ACC.
Odds to Win National Championship
Start of the Season: +1200
Regular Season Record: 29-3, 16-2 1st in the Atlantic Coast Conference
Motivated by their record-setting loss to UMBC in last years tournament, the Cavaliers looked motivated to prove their quality all year long. They dominated their competition throughout the year, and only saw hiccups against the always difficult Duke Blue Devils.
The Cavaliers looked like a seasoned team throughout the season. Still owning an impressive defence, but displaying an improved offence that is a testament to the improvement of their individual players. De’Andre Hunter led the Cavaliers once again this season, with marksmen Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome aiding him from range.
Their quality during the season earned them the number one seed in the ACC tournament, but they failed when they faced off against Florida State in the semifinal. Their defence couldn’t stop the Seminoles, allowing them to shoot 56.5% from the field. Going into the tournament the Cavaliers depth was in question again, but in a single-elimination tournament it seemed like less of a concern.
Odds to win National Championship
Entering the Tournament: +600
The Virginia Cavaliers entered the NCAA Tournament with the focus to prove themselves this year, after a devastating previous season. They cruised past Gardner-Webb in the first round and shot their way past Oklahoma in the second round. While their long-range shooting didn’t keep up with them, they were able to grind out their opponents into difficult shots.
The Cavaliers faced a tough test in the Oregon Ducks. Both solid defensive teams, neither side gave an inch in what was an old-school, grit ‘n’ grind type of game. Followed by a higher scoring again against Purdue, the Cavaliers were able to dispel the slower pace of the Oregon game despite some inefficiencies along the way.
Virginia has been able to slow the offence of every team they’ve faced so far in the tournament. While their offence hasn’t been brilliant, Tony Bennett’s team is so disciplined on the back-foot that they stay competitive by stops and turnovers alone.
Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, the concerns plaguing them going into the tournament haven’t been dispelled. They are still thin off of the bench and rely very heavily on their star players. While Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy are the backcourt pairing of the tournament, they can’t carry it all.
All eyes are on De’Andre Hunter, a player who is projected to be in the top ten of the NBA Draft this year but has failed to find his game during the tournament. He is shooting poorly from the field overall and hasn’t been able to get to the free-throw line or hit from range to compensate.
The Cavaliers defence will be the toughest the Auburn will face. For the Cavaliers, they will have to keep up with Auburn’s fast pace and realize they won’t have many opportunities to sit in their half-court defence. Virginia has the talent, but if they can’t zone in and convert efficiently the faster pace of the Tigers may spell their doom.
Next Game: Virginia Cavaliers vs Auburn Tigers
When: Saturday, April 6th at 6:09 PM EST
Where: US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
How to Watch: CBS
Current Odds to Win the Tournament: +150
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Christian Jope is a writer, social media strategist, and data analyst. A Queen’s University Alumni, Christian is an author and social media strategist with Raptors Cage, while also working closely with MLSE and Canada Basketball through community-driven events.
Email: [email protected]More info on Christian Jope
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