For the fourth consecutive season and the fifth time overall under head coach Tony Bennett, the Virginia men’s basketball program is headed to the NCAA Tournament.
“This is our fourth year in a row and you never take it for granted,” Coach Bennett said.
UVA is the No. 5 seed in the East Region and will take on No. 12 seed UNC Wilmington Thursday in Orlando, Florida. Tip time is 12:40 p.m. and TruTV will televise. The winner of this game will face the winner of the No. 4 Florida/No. 13 East Tennessee State matchup on Saturday.
Villanova is the No. 1 seed in the East and the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament.
– No. 1 Villanova versus No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s/No. 16 New Orleans
– No. 8 Wisconsin versus No. 9 Virginia Tech
– No. 4 Florida versus No. 13 East Tennessee State
– No. 5 UVA versus No. 12 UNC-Wilmington
– No. 3 Baylor versus New Mexico State
– No. 6 SMU versus No. 11 Providence/No. 11 USC
– No. 2 Duke versus No. 15 Troy
– No. 7 South Carolina versus No. 10 Marquette
Lynchburg (VA) native Kevin Keatts’ UNC Wilmington Seahawks squad is making its second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Seahawks have achieved a 29-5 overall record so far in 2016/2017, capturing the CAA regular season and postseason tournament championships along the way. The Seahawks went 25-7 last season before falling to Duke in the NCAA Tournament second round.
“You’ve got to love the challenge,” Coach Bennett said. “You look at playing a veteran team. You’re going to play an excellent team.”
“Very explosive offensively,” Bennett added of the Seahawks. “They really can score.”
This matchup will pit the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense — UVA has allowed only 55.6 points per game — versus the nation’s No. 10 scoring offense. UNC Wilmington averages 85.2 points per game and features four players who average double-digit points per game, including 6’5” sophomore guard C.J. Bryce (17.2 PPG), 6’5” senior guard Chris Flemmings (15.8 PPG), 6’0” senior point guard Denzel Ingram (14.5 PPG), and 6’7”, 240-pound sophomore forward Devontae Cacok (12.3 PPG). Cacok, who averages close to a double-double in terms of points and rebounds, has made an astounding 79.9% of his 224 field goal attempts.
UNC Wilmington, which has an RPI ranking of 27 and a BPI ranking of 60, allows an average of 74.9 points per game on 48.2% field goal shooting and 33.6% 3-point shooting.
The AP No. 21 Cavaliers enter the NCAA Tournament on a roller coaster ride, losing four straight in February before rebounding to win the final three games of the regular season and an ACC Tournament contest. The latter streak included a win over South No. 1 seed UNC, two wins over Pittsburgh, and a win at NC State. UVA then lost to Notre Dame by 13 in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals.
Virginia reached the Sweet 16 in 2014, the third round in 2015, and the Elite Eight in 2016. London Perrantes, Devon Hall, Marial Shayok and Isaiah Wilkins were significant parts of last year’s Elite Eight run. For freshmen Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and Mamadi Diakite, this will be their first NCAA Tournament experience.
“What an incredible opportunity for the young guys, for their future,” Bennett said.
“You’ve got some new guys and we’ll see how they respond,” Bennett added.