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Cavaliers kick off NIT against Norfolk State

Streeter Lecka

What: Virginia Cavaliers (21-11, 11-8 ACC) vs. Norfolk State Spartans (21-11, 16-1 MEAC)

Time: 9 PM

Date: March 19, 2013
Place: John Paul Jones Arena
Radio: Virginia Sports Radio Network

Spread: Virginia -16; Pomeroy: Virginia 68-50 (96%)
Last Meeting: Virginia 50-49 (Charlottesville) - Dec. 20, 2010

The Hoos kick off the not-so-Big Dance tonight when the Spartans of Norfolk State visit JPJ. UVA fans probably remember two things about NSU. 1) They beat 2-seed Missouri as a 15 seed in last year's NCAA Tournament. 2) They came within an Assane Sene tip-in of winning at JPJ the year before that. If you need a refresher, the highlights are here - it's worth scrolling to ~3:15 to see the game-winner followed by Assane's interview.

This season, Norfolk State went 21-11, including a 16-0 regular conference season before Bethune Cookman upset them in the MEAC quarterfinals, leading to an auto-NIT bid.

Before we see the record and start panicking, let's take a closer look at the numbers. The Spartans come in at #224 on KenPom, as their wins came over bottom-of-the-barrel opponents and tended to be in close games (they are the 2nd luckiest team in the nation this season). Their best wins came on the road against #191 Rhode Island and #219 Savannah State. Against quality competition, NSU lost by 13 at Seton Hall, 10 at Illinois, 18 at NC State, and 28 at Iona. Wahoo fans won't be taking the game for granted, but a loss would require a terrible UVA performance and an all-world NSU night (see UVA vs. ODU).

While Norfolk State won't blow anyone away on offense (KenPom #289), their defense is 130th in the nation and features the 9th best defensive three point percentage, though this may be the product of good fortune. Junior Malcolm Hawkins and senior Rob Johnson will both see major minutes, though they haven't been efficient on offense this season, with eFG percentages hovering just over 40%. Pendavis Williams shoots 40% from behind the arc, and is probably the Spartans' best chance at staying in the game.

As always, drop your thoughts, insight, and .gifs down in the comments. And, as always, let's go Hoos!