In the wake of a successful run in Las Vegas, the Virginia Cavaliers have officially added a non-conference tournament to their 2023 schedule: the Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off. The Cavaliers will compete alongside Wisconsin, SMU, and West Virginia in the tournament, scheduled to take place Nov. 20-22, 2023.
West Virginia is still led by Hall of Fame coach Bob Huggins, and is a program that’s given Virginia trouble in the past thanks to their press. The ‘Hoos are just 1-2 against the Mountaineers in the Tony Bennett era, though next year will be a great opportunity to even the score. West Virginia has struggled in recent years, and they’re coming off a 4-14 finish in conference play as one of the Big 12’s bottom feeders.
Wisconsin is another familiar foe for the Cavaliers, though the two teams haven’t met since Virginia’s 2018-19 national championship campaign. Under Greg Gard, Wisconsin has always been stylistically similar to the ‘Hoos and happy to embrace a slow pace of play — in the last three meetings between the two teams, only once has a side cracked 50 points. Virginia-Wisconsin games tend to be dogfights, and drawing the Badgers would be a great early-season test for the ‘Hoos, even if Greg Gard’s squad isn’t the formidable foe they once were.
SMU rounds out the tournament field under new head coach Rob Lanier. The Mustangs are off to an inconspicuous start this year, with a 2-3 record including losses to New Mexico and Louisiana, but they’ve been successful in the AAC in recent years including a 13-4 record last season.
It’s certainly not quite the level of competition Virginia faced in the Continental Tire Main Event this season, where they drew #5 Baylor and #19 Illinois in their two tournament matchups, but this tournament should offer the ‘Hoos some nice opportunities for non-conference tune-ups in a season where they’ll have lofty expectations.