The Virginia Cavaliers are the No. 1 seed in the South Region of the 2019 NCAA tournament, and the Hoos will head to Columbia, South Carolina, to take on the Running Bulldogs of Gardner-Webb on Friday (March 20).
Virginia is coming off a lackluster performance in the ACC semifinals where the Hoos fell to a hot-shooting Florida State team. Overall, Coach Bennett looked at the loss as a chance to improve, and — although he doesn’t necessarily subscribe to the ‘losses are good for you’ school of thought — knows that an opportunity exists for the Hoos to grow.
“It’s hard when you get beat in your conference tournament...it’s just like anything,” Bennett said on Sunday night. “You look at the film, figure out areas you feel like you need to tighten up, and then prepare well knowing that, ok, for this tournament now, another one-and-done and you want to be as ready as you can.
“There were some areas we need to continue to get better in, and we have another chance to do that.”
Unlike last season, Virginia is a good spot health wise heading into the NCAA tournament. The Cavaliers hit the gym Sunday before gathering to find out where they’d be heading. Bennett and the Hoos are grateful for another outstanding season that resulted in Virginia’s fourth No. 1 seed in six seasons.
“We practiced today...and after practice we were excited to see where we were going to go and who we were playing,” Bennett said on a teleconference following the bracket reveal. “To be a one seed means it was a heck of a season, and it doesn’t guarantee anything, as we know.”
Virginia and their first round foe actually have some common opponents this season. Gardner-Webb has wins over ACC foes Georgia Tech (79-69) and Wake Forest (73-69) this season, but also lost to VCU (69-57) and Virginia Tech (87-59). It’s still early in the preparation process, but Coach Bennett is ready to face a tough test.
“Looking at their offensive numbers and their defensive numbers, obviously Gardner-Webb is very good,” Bennett said. “When you have to win on the road and beat good teams in that league, which they did, it means they’re playing very good basketball. They played a quality non-conference, and they won a couple of ACC games, so there’s certainly great respect for them.”
Bennett also said the ACC getting three No. 1 seeds shows the strength of the league and what an accomplishment Virginia’s 16-2 regular season showing was. This is the just the second time three teams from one conference have been No. 1 seeds in the same tournament, joining the Big East in 2009.
Virginia gets underway on Friday in Columbia, South Carolina. Tip off times will be announced later and will be updated as we get new information.