Chris Graham: How good is UVa. basketball?

UVa. basketball should pretty easily re-enter the Top 25 from AP and the coaches this week after being out since Week 2 following the November loss at home to VCU.

uva-logo-new2How long ago that one seems back in the rear-view. The Cavs are off to their best start in the ACC in more than 30 years, at 8-1 at the halfway mark after Sunday’s dramatic 48-45 win at #18 Pitt on a last-second three-pointer by Malcolm Brogdon.

This after a subpar 9-4 start to the 2013-2014 punctuated by an 87-52 loss to Tennessee on Dec. 30. Since that moment in time, Virginia is 8-1, all in ACC games, with a 4-1 road record in conference play including the win at Pitt and Ws at Florida State, N.C. State and Notre Dame, and a last-minute loss at Duke.

In the first seven ACC wins this season, Virginia led at one point in each game by at least 20 points.

OK, so that’s all nice. But just how good is this Virginia team?

Let’s look at Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, if only because at least KenPom is updated as of the writing of this column, just before midnight Sunday-Monday.

The verdict from Pomeroy: would you believe #7 in the nation?

Pomeroy has Virginia’s strength of schedule at 19th overall, a credit to coach Tony Bennett for addressing what was a key criticism of last year’s resume that left UVa. on the outside looking in for an NCAA bid.

Virginia’s offense is rated 87th overall, and the defense is rated second, behind only Arizona, who despite last night’s loss to Cal still ranks #1 overall in the Pomeroy ratings.

The traditional renderings of RPI, none of which had been updated to include Sunday’s win at Pitt as of this writing, all had Virginia in the low 20s.

That would seem to translate to five or six seed in the Big Dance. Jerry Palm at CBS Sports had UVa. as a seven seed as of Friday, again before the win at Pitt.

Expect all of those numbers – the RPI ratings and the projected seed – to go up at the next update.

With a largely favorable schedule in the second half of the ACC season, 15-3 in conference is not out of the realm of possibility, which would put Virginia at 24-7 overall. Split two games in Greensboro, and the Cavs are 25-8 heading into Selection Sunday.

There’s obviously wiggle room here, maybe a game or two in the positive direction (an additional regular-season win, and another ACC Tournament win), and a game or two in the negative.

Move in the positive direction, and you’re looking at a UVa. team that could top out as a #3 seed in the NCAAs. A move in the negative direction, and a six or seven is more likely.

For a program that hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2007, this is all big talk right now. For a fan base that hasn’t seen its favorite team in a Sweet 16 since 1995, and a Final Four since 1984, this is all fantasy-land dreaming, of course.

Column by Chris Graham



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Team of Destiny: Inside UVA Basketball's improbable run

Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.

The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.



 
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