The Virginia Cavaliers are one of the most complete teams in the nation. Because of this, the Wahoos have the potential to go far in March, and even in April. In a completely wide-open field, the Cavaliers are one of the few clear-cut favorites to win. The Cavaliers have only made it past the first weekend once in the past 20 years. That will not be the case this year, as the Wahoos have all the makings of a championship team; they have a hounding defense, star players, and experienced players. All of those are crucial ingredients for a team that wants to go far in the tournament.
Last year, Virginia's star player, Justin Anderson, was unable to take the team past the second round of the playoffs. Anderson however, has passed the torch to guard Malcolm Brogdon. Brogdon has been everything coach Tony Bennett could have asked for. You would be hard-pressed to find a smoother player in college basketball. By smooth, I mean someone who makes the game look so effortless while playing. Brogdon has always been known as a catch-and-shoot specialist, but lately he has broadened his game to include a keen driving ability. He has been able to get to the rim with ease lately, and has used a variety of floaters, finger-rolls, and regular lay-ins when he gets there.
Most of their playoff hopes rest on Brogdon's shoulders
The main aspect of Virginia's game that has stood out this year, like always, is their defense. The hounding defense that Virginia has employed under Bennett's regime has ranked among the best defenses in the country, year-in, year-out. This year's team is no different. Spearheaded by Brogdon and London Perrantes, the Cavaliers ranked third in the nation in scoring defense, and were one of the most efficient defensive teams.
After early exits the past two tournaments, this year's team can't make it a third. They certainly have the potential and roster to go far, but whether they will is the real question. Shooting is a key component for every team wanting to win the tourney, and Virginia has that. The Wahoos are an above average shooting team, their .405 mark from deep is proof of this. Their aerial attack is led by London Perrantes, a .481 shooter from deep, Marial Shayok, a .424 three-point shooter, and Brogdon, a .409 shooter from beyond the arc.
Virginia is in one of the hardest brackets; some of the other teams in the Midwest region are Michigan State, Utah, Iowa State, and Purdue. All of those are teams that could possibly derail the Cavaliers. Purdue is the team that Virginia will likely face in the Sweet Sixteen. The Boilermakers feature one of the best frontcourts in the tournament. That attack is led by senior center A.J. Hammons. Hammons has averaged 14.9 points per game, and 8.0 rebounds per game in his final season with the Boilermakers. While Purdue will likely give the Cavaliers some trouble, Virginia should be able to fend them off on their way to facing Michigan State.
The Michigan State Spartans have been one of the best teams all season, and some feel they could've even been a #1 seed in the tournament. The only place the Cavaliers and Spartans could meet is in the Elite Eight. Although it is late in the tournament, it is very likely that those teams will meet. If they meet though, Denzel Valentine will definitely give the Wahoos trouble, but they should be able to contain him.
After the Elite Eight, Virginia will likely play the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Final Four. The last game between the two teams was in the ACC Tournament Championship Game. While that game saw the Tar Heels walking away victorious, things may be different the next time around. In that game, the Tar Heels did a wonderful job of shutting down Brogdon, Perrantes, and Anthony Gill. Brogdon finished with 15 points, Perrantes with eight, and Gill with 13, all which are well below their season averages. It would be hard for the Cavaliers to win without production from their star players. Because of this, I find it very unlikely that the Cavaliers make it past this point.
Overall though, an appearance in the Final Four would lead to this season dubbed as successful.