GREENSBORO, N.C. — After winning the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship Sunday against Duke in Greensboro, Virginia's day got sweeter on the side of the road in Danville when it learned it earned a top seed in the NCAA tournament.
U.Va. (28-6) will take a short trip to Raleigh, N.C., to play Friday at about 9:40 p.m. in the second round of the East Region against No. 16 seed Coastal Carolina. The winner of the U.Va.-Coastal Carolina game plays Sunday in the third round against the winner of No. 8 seed Memphis vs. No. 9 seed George Washington.
U.Va. coach Tony Bennett insisted he never really pondered his team's chances of getting a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. It's the fourth time U.Va. has earned a No. 1 seed, and it's the first time since 1983, when the Ralph Sampson-led Cavaliers lost in the West Region final to eventual national champion North Carolina State. U.Va. reached the Final Four in '81 as a No. 1 seed.
- Virginia celebrates ACC basketball championship
- Virginia capable of much more after ACC championship
- Teel Time: Projected NCAA tournament bracket includes six from ACC, Atlantic 10
- Justin Anderson applauds U.Va. seniors
- Video: ACC basketball tournament
- Virginia Cavaliers
- NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament
- Clemson Tigers
See more topics »
Greensboro Coliseum, 1921 W. Lee Street, Greensboro, N.C. 27403
"That doesn't really go into your thinking," said Bennett of the No. 1 seed. "It's just about, like we talked about, playing well enough to put yourself in position to have a chance at a regular-season championship and then we said, 'OK, you break your season into three places — the non-conference, then the conference and then postseason.' Then, it was about, 'OK, then you get into the ACC tournament and can you compete for a championship there?' Really, that's the only thinking. The seeding? Not at all."
If U.Va. makes it past the third round, it will move on to the region semifinals in New York City's Madison Square Garden. The NCAA tournament is returning to Madison Square Garden this season for the first time since 1961.
U.Va.'s last trip to the NCAA tournament was two years ago under Bennett, when the Cavaliers were the No. 10 seed in the West Region. They lost 71-45 to No. 7 seed Florida in the second round in Omaha, Neb.
U.Va.'s case for a top seed this season likely was aided by several factors in conference tournaments, including Michigan's loss Sunday to Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament championship game, Villanova's loss to Seton Hall early in the Big East tournament, and Kansas' loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 tournament semifinals.
"Virginia's total resume was very impressive to us," said NCAA selection committee chairman Ron Wellman during a Sunday evening interview on CBS. "They won the ACC regular-season championship, and followed it up with a tournament championship. They just continued to impress us throughout the year.
"They were always in that vicinity. In February, when we met (as a committee), Virginia was right there knocking on the door and they continued to play well down the stretch. We were very, very impressed with them, obviously, to put them on the No. 1 line."
In the wake of its 72-63 win against Duke, U.Va. planned to stay in Greensboro overnight, but opted instead to jump on the team bus and travel back to Charlottesville in an effort to stay ahead of some winter weather.
The team stopped in Danville to watch the NCAA tournament selection show at the Kickback Jack's sports bar, where the team was surrounded by televisions, chicken wings, nachos — and even a surprise bunch of U.Va. fans.
"We had some appetizers and pretty much got back on the bus," Bennett said.
Coastal Carolina (21-12) reached the NCAA tournament by winning the Big South conference tournament championship. It's coached by Cliff Ellis, who in 39 years as a college coach spent 10 years at Clemson (1984-94) and 10 more years at Auburn ('94-2004) before arriving at Coastal Carolina in '07.
Ellis will be headed to the NCAA tournament for a ninth time, but it'll be his first trip with Coastal Carolina. He took Clemson to the regional semifinals in '90, and Auburn to the regional semifinals in '99 and 2003.
"He's a heck of a coach," said Bennett, who added his team will get Monday off before getting to work on Coastal Carolina. The Cavs likely will travel Wednesday to Raleigh. "They've been good over the years since he's been there. I know they've played Clemson in our league [Clemson won 69-40 on Nov. 29 at home].
"We've talked about doing a possible series with (Coastal Carolina) in the past. They've been good. They will change their defenses to different things, and we certainly respect the coaching job he's done and how long he's been a successful coach."
Wood can be reached by phone at 757-247-4642.