In the second round of the NCAA Tournament the Virginia Cavaliers dropped an embarrassing loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels, 63-43. The Louisville win was gross, but this result was far, far uglier.
The final buzzer was a welcome relief
There are barely words to describe Virginia’s performance against North Carolina. The offense in particular was horrendous as the ‘Hoos score just 0.694 points per possession on the night. Virginia shot 18-52 from the floor (34.6%) and 3-11 (27.3%) from beyond the three point arc.
The backcourt in particular struggled as Kihei Clark, Reece Beekman, and Armaan Franklin combined to shoot an ugly 5-24 on the night.
Frankly, those numbers may not even properly represent just how bad UVA was offensively against the Tar Heels. The Wahoo attack had almost nothing it could rely on throughout the game as the shooting woes of the Louisville game were exploited by UNC.
Jayden Gardner was a rare bright spot — as he often has been for the Virginia offense this season — with his 17 points on 8-16 shooting. But outside of his performance, Virginia scored just 26 points on 10-36 shooting.
It was a night to forget for Wahoo fans everywhere. With the season on the line, there was nothing Virginia could do but win. And the ‘Hoos lost. Sometimes that’s as complicated as it gets.
This team couldn’t overcome its fatal flaws
All in all, this loss was a microcosm of all of the issues with this team and this roster. The lack of scoring prowess and shooting in the back-court couldn’t be overcome nor could the apparent lack of playable depth and the inconsistencies in the front-court.
There are good players on this team. Good players who deserve credit for a few good wins this season. But, at the end of the day, the talent on this roster and the fit of the players was poor enough that even Tony Bennett — who’s done a lot with little at times in his career — couldn’t rescue it.
Goodbye NCAA Tournament
If it even had to be said, this loss hammers the final nail into the coffin of Virginia’s dream of making the NCAA Tournament. As the ‘Hoos let far too many late season opportunities slip away, the ACC Champion’s automatic bid was realistically UVA’s only hope of playing in March Madness.
Even in the unlikely scenario that enough bubble teams lost bad games to give the Wahoos a chance at an at-large bid, it would’ve taken two more wins and a consequent ACC Championship Game appearance Virginia’s case one worthy of consideration.
Instead, UVA fans are left wondering what could’ve been with late season losses to Virginia Tech, Duke, Florida State, and now North Carolina all dooming the Wahoos’ chances. Now, UVA will lose its streak of seven straight tournament appearances as this will undoubtedly be the first year that Tony Bennett and company aren’t taking part in the big dance since 2013.
Speaking of 2013, that was the last and only time under Tony Bennett that Virginia took part in the 32-team National Invitational Tournament (NIT). In fact, the way that season played out was fairly similar to this one as both UVA squads scored a big win against Duke before petering out at the end of the regular season and finally losing in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals.
That team earned a one seed in the NIT and hosted three NIT games before losing to Iowa in the quarterfinals with a trip to Madison Square Garden on the line.
Assuming Virginia would accept an NIT bid — which isn’t a guarantee — they’d likely be a one or two seed with a chance to at least make something of this season by going on a run and perhaps providing some fun, low stakes basketball for Wahoo fans.
Then again, maybe it’d be more enjoyable to move on from this team and look towards the future spearheaded by an incredibly talented 2022 recruiting class.