Even in the wake of the Virginia Cavaliers capturing the ACC Tournament for the first time in 38 years, head coach Tony Bennett was quick to remind anyone who would listen that his team still a lot of work to do. That work begins Friday in the East Regional of the NCAA Tournament as the top seed in the East Region. In Raleigh, NC, Virginia will face No. 16 seed Coastal Carolina. Virginia has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game under Bennett, but this team — by far Bennett’s best — will give him a chance to capture much more than a single win in the Big Dance.
The Chanticleers won the Big South Tournament and enter March Madness with a 21-12 record. Coastal Carolina has won six games in a row and are led by 6-foot-4 freshman guard Elijah Wilson at 16.1 points per game. But the Chanticleers have three players averaging in double figures. One big potential advantage for Coastal Carolina is rebounding. The Chanticleers are 11th in the nation in rebounding while Virginia is 140th. El Hadji Ndieguene leads Coastal in rebounding at nearly seven per game.
What to Watch For
Virginia enters the NCAA Tournament with the best scoring defense in the country, and that was on full display in Sunday’s 72-63 win over Duke in the ACC Tournament final in which the Blue Devils shot just 38 percent from the field. Defense travels, so there’s no reason to think the Cavaliers won’t be on point at the defensive end. Offensively, ACC Tournament MVP Joe Harris and Malcolm Brogdon are the top scorers, but post player Mike Tobey hit some key buckets against Duke and reserve Anthony Gill scored 38 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in the ACC Tournament, good enough for second-team All-ACC Tournament honors. Coastal is 200th in the nation in field-goal percentage, so Virginia’s defense might be an even worse matchup for the Chanticleers than for other teams.
Even if there’s a massive difference between the teams, Virginia’s style doesn’t lead to blowouts. But Virginia has made a living this season dominating the final 10 minutes of games, and that shouldn’t be any different on Friday.
Virginia 65, Coastal Carolina 52.