It’s finally every college basketball fan’s favorite time of the year. March Madness is in full swing as people are already picking up the pieces of their bracket. In just the first day, the tournament has already lived up to the hype. Two #3 seeds (Iowa State, Baylor) fell to #14 seeds, seven of the twelve games were decided by less than five points, and we saw two game-winning three-point shots, one of which was facilitated by a SMU goaltending.
In regards to Virginia’s region, the Hoos got a lucky draw. They are in the East region with Villanova, arguably the third best #1 seed, and Oklahoma, Louisville, and Northern Iowa round out the top five. One interesting aspect of the East region is that Virginia could exact revenge on the team who took it out of the tournament last year. #7 Michigan State plays #10 Georgia as #2 Virginia plays #15 Belmont. If both Virginia and Michigan State were to win, we would have the rematch that all Hoos fans are hoping for.
ROUND OF 64 (3/20, 3:10pm on TRU):
While most of the games played on the first day are concentrated in the West, Villanova cruised past Lafayette, and North Carolina State edged out LSU by a point. Virginia and the rest of the East region will play today (3/20), which will give us a little more clarity as to who the Cavaliers will be facing in the later rounds. For the sake of analysis, we will predict Virginia’s remaining opponents, assuming all the higher seeds win out, which never happens in this tournament. The first matchup is against #15 Belmont. While many people believe this will be a rout for the Cavaliers, #15 seeds have surprised people in years past (see: Florida Gulf Coast).
Up next would be the rematch against the #7 Michigan State Spartans. Because of the emotions surrounding last year’s early exit, this would undoubtedly be a heated contest on the court as Michigan State heated up late in the season, falling to Wisconsin in the Big 10 title game.
ROUND OF 32 (3/22, TBD):
#7 Michigan State (predicted)
Possible opponent(s): #10 Georgia
The Cavaliers would then play #3 Oklahoma (assuming a #3 seed will win a game in this year’s tournament). Oklahoma had a tough season but played in an intensely competitive Big 12 conference. However, like Michigan State, Oklahoma has come alive over the past couple months, tallying ten wins out of their last thirteen games.
SWEET 16 (3/27, TBD):
#3 Oklahoma (predicted)
Possible opponent(s): #6 Providence, #11 Dayton, #14 Albany
Moving onto the East regional final, Virginia would face #1 Villanova. Villanova has had a great season, losing just two games all year. But the quality of their opponents this year hasn’t been up to par, and it is quite possible that Villanova would crack under the pressure of Tony Bennett’s suffocating defense.
ELITE 8 (3/29, TBD):
#1 Villanova (predicted)
Likely opponent(s): #4 Louisville
After this victory, the Cavs would head to Indianapolis to have yet another rematch in this year’s tournament. #1 Virginia would take on #1 Duke, looking to avenge the loss earlier in the season. Back when these two teams played in January, the Cavs saw their victory slip from their fingers, as Duke couldn’t miss from the three-point line late in the game.
FINAL 4 (4/4, TBD):
#1 Duke (predicted)
Likely opponent(s): #2 Gonzaga,
#3 Iowa State
Moving past Duke, the Cavaliers would face #1 overall seed Kentucky in the championship game (See earlier article, “Hypothetical Hoops: UK vs. UVa,” for a more in-depth analysis). Kentucky has gone 34-0 this season, overcoming every obstacle that was thrown at them. The Wildcats feature two “platoons” that individually could have made the tournament. This game would be low scoring and hard fought as these two defensive giants went at it for college basketball’s biggest prize.
CHAMPIONSHIP (4/6, 9:00pm on CBS):
#1 Kentucky (predicted)
Virginia’s chances look good this season, but it depends on whether the team can put it all together in the most crucial moments. Justin Anderson needs to return to his regular season form, as he had a poor outing against North Carolina, missing all seven of his shots. But with Tony Bennett’s squad fully rested off their premature exit from the ACC tournament, Cavaliers fans have high hopes that they will see their team hoist the trophy on April 6th.
By Alex Overdyk, Staff Writer