Virginia surprised everyone by winning both the ACC regular season and tournament championships. The Cavaliers have won 16 of their last 17 games, including a 12 game winning streak in the ACC.
Head coach Tony Bennett has his team playing exactly the way he wants. They lead the nation in points allowed per game to sport the country's top defense, and execute extremely well - better than anyone in the country, really - to get the shots they want on offense.
Senior Joe Harris (11.7 ppg) has played up to expectations, but the emergence of sophomore Malcolm Brogdon (12.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg), who's one of the best players in the country you haven't heard of, has turned UVA into a formidable team. Freshman point guard London Perrantes (3.4 assist/turnover ratio) does a great job running the offense and getting everyone else involved, and he's also a dangerous scorer if you leave him alone.
They do hang their hat on their outstanding defense and limiting the opposition, which they've done for the whole year. Hard to imagine that suddenly stopping now in the NCAA Tournament.
Coastal got into the tournament by winning the Big South Tournament and have won five in a row, including eight of their last 10.
They're led by guards Elijah Wilson (16.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg) and Warren Gillis (14.8 ppg, 3.2 apg) who handle most of the offense, but the Chanticleers make their mark on the boards. They grab almost 40 rebounds a game, good for 11th in the country, but don't shoot it really well or score at a high rate.
Virginia should be able to take advantage of that as they're bigger and more physical than Coastal. Their defense should also cause major problems the Chants' already average offense and will cruise to an easy win, even though their score might not be as lopsided as some of the other games.
Best Case Scenario
Virginia's offense continues to execute at a high rate and they shoot well for the whole tournament, beating Michigan State and making somewhat of a Cinderella Final Four run.
Worst Case Scenario
Their offense can't match their defense and can't control the tempo against a high-octane Memphis team that pulls an unlikely upset over the Cavs as an #8-seed.
I've been saying that the Cavaliers were a sleeper Final Four pick all season, and I still think they get there. That's become somewhat of an upset since everyone is in love with Michigan State and rightfully so, but UVA has the best defense in the country and are the best team I've seen all year at executing their offense and getting the shots they want.
They shouldn't have a problem getting to the Sweet 16 - the spoils of getting a #1-seed - and if they can get past Michigan State, they'll hold the upper hand over Iowa State or Villanova (or whoever else might make the Elite 8).
Once they're in the Final Four, they'll probably run into Florida or Kansas, both of whom are more talented than Virginia and also play really good defense. Making the Final Four is a great accomplishment, but I think that's where the Cavaliers' run ends.
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