Saturday night's Senior Night win over the Louisville Cardinals was straight out of a fairly tale. Trust me, I know. I have a three year old obsessed with Cinderella, Snow White, and every other princess dressed in a fancy gown. Not only did Malcolm Brogdon solidify his case for ACC player of the year; but Evan Nolte did what he does (besides being amazing) and hit two threes early and Mike Tobey cemented his case as most perplexing player in UVA basketball history by dominating the game to the tune of 15 points and 20 (yes, I said 20) rebounds. And not to be outdone, Caid Kirven put the icing on the cake by hitting a three in the last minute, reminiscent of fellow walk-on Thomas Rodger's three against Syracuse two years ago. In the end, it was a magical night as the Hoos took down the Cardinals and left me saying nothing more than bibbity-bobbity-boo. With the win, the Hoos earned the second seed in this year's ACC tournament and the inside track at a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament when the brackets are released next Sunday. Let's see how the win looked, and what to expect this week...From the Rafters
1) Requisite Malcolm Brogdon mention - Despite Brice Johnson's 18 points and 21 rebounds against Duke just minutes before Saturday night's tip-off, Malcolm Brogdon still did enough and more to earn ACC Player of the Year. His 17 points led the team, but most importantly, he shut down Louisville's Damion Lee, holding the senior to just nine points on 3-13 shooting. That has been the story line all year long for Brogdon whose surge on offense during the last part of season may have carried him to the honor, but as all Hoo fans know, it's his lock down defense night in and night out that has made him most deserving.
2) Angry Mike Tobey - It's no secret that Mike Tobey is a very good basketball player, it's just frustrating to see him disappear in games, pick up cheap fouls, or be bullied around down low. Well that wasn't the case on Saturday night. To say Tobey was a beast was putting it mildly. He grabbed everything in sight, picking up 20 rebounds, and adding 15 points. But what doesn't show up in the box score, and what UVA fans have been clamoring for from him was his assertiveness on the glass. He was physical, he was mean. It was a far cry from the Tobey we see 20 feet from the basket running into a ball handler then throwing his hands in the air wondering why he got called for a foul. It was as if he wasn't afraid of the contact and he wasn't going to be denied. As is always the case with Tobey, if that is how he approaches his minutes from now on, he could carry this team a very long way.
3) Virginia's postseason prospects - Based on most bracket projections, if the season were to end today, Virginia would have done enough to earn a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. However, there is still a lot of basketball to be played and there are currently seven legitimate candidates vying for the three number one seeds (I think Kansas has a number one locked up regardless of their performance in the Big 12 Tournament). What is important to note about the Hoos' current standing is any bracket projection right now either assumes teams win out, or they are projecting what they think they will do. So, suffice it to say, if Virginia wins the ACC Tournament, they will be a number one seed. However, winning the ACCT isn't a necessity. Just as we have seen all year, top teams are capable of losing on any given night. Should several of Virginia's competitors fall in their conference tournaments, Virginia would stand right there ready to claim that coveted number one seed.
1) Ummm, I got nothing - Brogdon didn't score over 20 in this game? Tony Bennet didn't win ACC Coach of the year? Duke wasn't able to defeat the Tar Heels, paving the way for a share of the ACC regular season championship? All that is just in the details. Since their struggles in January, this team has proven that they can play with anyone in the country. This is a team playing their best basketball, they are healthy and they are hungry, ready to prove that they have what it takes to cut down the nets not only next week in DC, but four weeks from now in Houston.
What to watch for
1) The ACC Tournament - Virginia enters the tournament as the second seed. On Thursday night, they'll face the winner of Georgia Tech and Clemson. Virginia got the best of Clemson in both match ups this season, but with all ACC first teamer Jaron Blossomgame leading the way, the Tigers prove a formidable test for the Wahoos. Should the Yellow Jackets prevail on Wednesday night, they will come at Virginia with a front court that can frustrate the Hoos and prove that their win over Virginia back in January wasn't a fluke. All that said, I like the Cavaliers to advance and most likely face Miami in the semi-finals. The two teams spit their regular season meetings, but Miami has shown they aren't the same team away from Coral Gables. Should Virginia win on Friday, it's likely they'd face UNC, Notre Dame, or Duke for the championship. The only three of these teams that gives me pause is North Carolina as they have tremendous athleticism (and depth) to match up with the Cavaliers. Regardless of opponent, it should be a good week, and provide a glimpse into what we will see out of the Hoos once the real dance starts in just over a week's time.
The Hoos are back in action Thursday night at 7 p.m. on ESPN against the winner of Clemson and Georgia Tech. But in the meantime, stay tuned to Streaking the Lawn for all your ACC Tournament coverage.