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2016 NCAA Tournament: Hampton Q&A with...AKIL MITCHELL!

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Virginia squares off with Hampton, and Akil's little brother, Thursday!

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It's finally here. The Midwest's top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers begin their NCAA Tournament journey Thursday as they take on the Hampton Pirates. The game will be on TruTV (I'll wait while you look it up) starting after the conclusion of the 12:40 Texas Tech - Butler game. Game time is listed as 3:10.

In order to prepare for the Hoos matching up with the Pirates, we chatted with Virginia superstar Akil Mitchell, whose little brother, Akim, is a freshman for Hampton! Who is he rooting for? Does he see Virginia in the championship game? Check out his answers below.

STL: First things first! How are you doing? What are you up to now?

A: I'm doing really well, I'm still playing professionally.  I spent last year with the Houston Rockets and in the D-League, now I'm playing for a team in France called the Antibes Sharks in the Cote d'Azur.  I've been working on learning french for a good part of the year (still terrible).

STL: What has been your takeaway from watching this year's team?

AM: I've been really impressed with this year's team.  They've bounced back from a few tough losses early in the year, which had the potential to derail them, but the guys in the locker room and coach Bennett have been there before, so they've handled it well.  It's maybe a bit different than my fourth year because of the amount of attention on the team, but I can tell from watching that the guys still know their identities and are having fun.

STL: Who has really impressed you on the 2015-2016 team?

AM: Obviously the easy answer is Malcolm, whom at one point I just decided to congratulate for every award he was going to win this year, because I would lose track otherwise.  The guys that have impressed me have been AG and London.  Two guys that this team needs to perform night in and night out to be successful have done just that, and have quietly lead them back to another 1 seed in the tournament.  I've been really impressed with the way that they've played this year.

STL: When they revealed Virginia was playing Hampton, what was your first reaction? Did you see the leaked bracket first, before the announcement show?

AM: I actually called my brother and told him it was possible once Hampton won their conference tournament, knowing Hampton would get a 15 or 16 and UVA would get a 1 or 2.  But of course there was a long shot that it was going to happen, until the brackets leaked and a bunch of my friends started texting me about the matchup.  I just called my brother and laughed about it and wished him good luck.

STL: Is your brother excited about the tournament? What was his take on pulling your old team in the first game?

AM: My brother is extremely excited, he's a freshman so winning his conference tournament and making the big dance is really special for him, but to draw his first game against a program and  players that he's grown up so familiar with makes it 100x better.  He's known AG since he was 11 or 12 so the first thing Akim told me when we talked was that he wanted to dunk on him. Hard.

STL: Have you talked to any of the guys on the team since the bracket was announced?

AM: Yea I sent Malcolm and AG a text after the official bracket was announced and told them that I love them, but Go Pirates! Haha, they were expecting to hear something like that.

STL: I think I know your answer, but who are you pulling for?

AM: It's actually hard for me.  Obviously UVA is a program that I'm so proud to say I helped build, and that team is like family to me.  But Hampton is a program that now my younger brother has a chance to help build, so it's hard for me to root against him.  All in all I hope Akim scores 30 and dunks on AG but UVA wins.

STL: How far do you think the Cavaliers will go this year (if they get past the Pirates, that is)?

AM: If they get past Hampton I have them in the championship game.  Everyone talks about Michigan State being back in our bracket, but if that game comes I know coach Bennett will have a fire in his eye like no other.  I'm excited to see how far they go.