Virginia men’s basketball entered the AP Top 25 for the first time since December 18, 2023 in this week’s edition of the poll, clocking in at #21. The ‘Hoos have won eight consecutive games in ACC play following Saturday’s 80-76 victory at Florida State and hold sole possession of second place in the conference with a 10-3 overall record.
NEW AP POLL!— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) February 12, 2024
7. North Carolina
10. Iowa State
How the Cavaliers regained their ranking
Following a midseason swoon during the university’s winter break which saw UVA lose four of six games — all road losses by at least 16 points — the outlook for Virginia’s chances to even make the NCAA Tournament seemed grim. However, recent changes to the rotation including the addition of Jordan Minor to the starting lineup and the return of Dante Harris from an ankle injury along with hot jump shooting from role player Jake Groves jump-started a run which has made UVA one of the hottest teams in the country.
Their eight-game winning streak is tied for the second-longest active Power 6 winning streak with Purdue and trails just reigning NCAA champions UConn, who have rattled off 12 consecutive victories. During the streak, the ‘Hoos have won games by an average of over 10 points per game and had just one game decided by one possession.
Résumé and predictive metrics remain more pessimistic on Virginia’s outlook than the AP Poll’s consensus. The ‘Hoos currently rank #32 in the NET (a combination of résumé and predictive metrics), 36th in Bart Torvik’s ratings and 48th in KenPom’s ratings. The discrepancy likely stems from a combination of the AP Poll’s tendency to reward recent form and predictive metrics penalizing Virginia for their blowout losses; however, it’s worth noting that UVA has moved up in all these rankings since the start of their winning streak, in most by a significant margin.
Virginia’s presence in the Top 25 this week is a good sign for their tournament outlook, too, as it reflects a changing national consensus on the quality of this Cavaliers roster. Right now, their 19-5 record and 10-3 conference record just can’t be ignored. On Bracket Matrix, an aggregator of NCAA Tournament predictions, most rankers place UVA on the 9-seed or 10-seed line — keeping the ‘Hoos not only firmly in the field but also out of the First Four play-in. The only news recently for Tony Bennett’s program has been good news.
Other ranked ACC teams
#7 North Carolina
North Carolina dropped four spots following an 80-76 home loss to PJ Hall and Clemson, but avoided free fall thanks to a strong second half against Miami. Still in first place in the ACC at 10-2, the Tar Heels visit JPJ on Saturday, February 24 in what could be the most important game all season for the conference title race.
The Tigers were the sixth team out of the AP Poll, receiving 57 votes. Their 6-6 conference record will make climbing back into the poll challenging, but a great road win over UNC and a blowout victory over Syracuse certainly helped. Predictive metrics are still high on Clemson, too; it wouldn’t be surprising to see them put a run together down the stretch, especially with only one team in the KenPom top 150 left on the schedule.