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Coach: Tony Bennett | Current record: 26-7 | NCAA Tournament record: 6-5
Best finish: Final Four | Last year’s finish: Loss to Michigan State in Round of 32
Starting lineup: G
Leading scorer: Brogdon (18.8) | Leading rebounder: Gill (6.1)
National championships: None | Last Final Four: 1984
Why Virginia might not win it all: Michigan State has bounced Virginia, so that’s something to watch, but this program is still in a position of needing to break through before everyone is ready to jump on board with the idea of the Wahoos cutting down the nets.
Player to watch: Brogdon is the first player in ACC history to win both the league’s player of the year and defensive player of the year honors in the same year, and he’s going to be impossible to miss when you sit down to take in a Virginia game. Uncle Malcolm has been a primary contributor, averaging at least 30 minutes per game in Bennett’s system for each of the last three seasons. He’s got an ACC title and 86 wins in that span, but Brogdon and Bennett are still searching for their first Final Four trip.
One guy soaring: Gill’s ability to play much bigger than his 6-foot-8 size allows Virginia to play a small lineup that gives opponents fits on both ends of the floor. The senior forward is active in the paint and does a great job of securing rebounds over taller players and attacking the rim on offense. While Virginia’s offense works the clock down and a team’s defensive attention span is tested, Gill waits in the weeds of the paint like a predatory cat and always seems to pounce at the right time when an opportunity for a second chance point or easy bucket presents itself.
Notable stat: 60.9. Virginia fans and those who see the Wahoos often may be tired of the subject, but for the uninitiated it is important to give you a heads up about the team’s pace-controlled style. With an adjusted tempo of 60.9 possessions per game, UVA ranks No. 346 nationally in pace. Bennett is known for his defensive prowess, but the game’s flow gets impacted on both ends of the floor; teams struggle to get a good look against the defense only to turn around and see Brogdon, Perrantes and others working through sets and eating up time until they get a favorable look at the basket.
Final thought: Virginia needs a run in the 2016 NCAA Tournament to avoid having its postseason shortcomings define this current era under Bennett. Winning 86 games across three years is wildly impressive, especially when you throw in the program’s second-ever ACC tournament victory and two regular season championships. But losses to Michigan State in the Sweet 16 (2014) and Round of 32 (2015) have left the Wahoos empty-handed in their efforts to reach the Final Four for the first time since 1984.
Get to know the other No. 1 seeds: Kansas | North Carolina | Oregon