Home UVA coach Tony Bennett: Grateful, excited for NCAA Tournament opportunity

UVA coach Tony Bennett: Grateful, excited for NCAA Tournament opportunity


bennettAs CBS cameras panned across the nation to capture scenes of NCAA Tournament bracket euphoria, UVA, one of the more intriguing stories in the walkup to Selection Sunday, was noticeably absent.

That was partly by design, partly out of necessity.

“Fleetwood Mac has a little more pull than the selection show,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett told reporters on a conference call Sunday night, explaining why the Cavs were not in front of cameras and cheering fans at the John Paul Jones Arena when the brackets were announced.

Not that the low-key Bennett minded having the convenient excuse that the Fleetwood Mac concert that bumped the team out of JPJ and to a lecture hall at the Darden School of Business on Grounds presented him.

“It was just us. It was the families, it was the players, the staff, the managers. It was just that kind of inner circle. It was just neat to be together, and to be thankful of where we were chosen and the opportunity that we have,” Bennett said.

The storyline that gripped UVA Nation as the day unfolded was what seed the Cavs would get. As of a couple of days ago, Virginia seemed destined to be a #1 seed, but the conversation turned over the weekend, with the various self-styled bracketology experts and talking heads herding to a new storyline that had the Cavs’ resume suddenly lacking.

Bennett wasn’t among those paying close or really any kind of attention to the seed-line debate. His focus is on the task at hand: a Friday afternoon matchup with #15 seed Belmont.

“I’ve been in this as a player, as a coach, and I’ve been on the other side, when you’re waiting, when you’re on the bubble, and you’re going to the NIT, and you’re not going to the NCAA. It’s a good feeling to know that we’re in,” Bennett said. “The seeding part of it, so much is about matchups. There are so many good teams you’re going to have to play. Whether you’re a one, two, three, four, it’s about matchups.”

Bennett said he hasn’t seen much of Belmont from this year, but compares the Bruins, the automatic qualifier from the Ohio Valley Conference, to Davidson, an NCAA at-large team that UVA defeated in a home game in December, 83-72.

“They’re challenging because of the way they play, the way they move the ball, the way they stretch you, the way they shoot, the soundness that they play with. That makes them a dangerous team,” Bennett said.

Virginia and Belmont have one common opponent, VCU, who defeated Belmont 78-51 on Dec. 16, and lost to UVA 74-57 on Dec. 6.

Bennett doesn’t read much if anything into the respective performances against the common opponent, since VCU’s style of play, with the Havoc defense that presses full-court for 40 minutes, not offering a fair point of comparison.

“I think you look more at teams that are similar system-wise to yourself. And it’s more as of late. You look at how teams are playing as of late. Obviously Coach (Rick) Byrd is terrific. He’s won so many games, he’s such a good coach,” Bennett said.

“They’ve got some good players. They’ve been in tough settings and know how to win. It’s a team that you watch how they’ve played as of late, they have experience, and they’re well-coached, all the way.”

– Story by Chris Graham



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