The No. 1 seed Virginia Cavaliers (31-2) take on the No. 16 seed UMBC Retrievers (24-10) in the First Round of the South Region. The game will be played at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte on Friday, March 16. Tip-off time is approximately 9:20 p.m. ET.
Preview: The Cavaliers have been the most consistent team in college basketball this season. Virginia doesn't have the star power that casual college basketball fans might know, but it is a deep team that plays defense better than anyone in the country.
The Hoos may not pile on points, which has been an issue in tournament play for Tony Bennett's team in the past. However, that doesn't mean they don't have a strong offense.
Per KenPom, Virginia has the No. 21 offensive efficiency in the country. Combined with the top-ranked defense, and Virginia is a rightful 1-seed, and a big-time national title contender.
UMBC earned its first NCAA Tournament bid in a decade on Saturday. The Retrievers shocked American East favorite Vermont in the conference tournament championship.
Date: Friday, March 16
Time: ~9:20 p.m. ET
TV Channel: TNT
Location: Charlotte, NC
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson
Opening Betting Line: Virginia -22.5, via 5Dimes
This is Virginia's 22nd NCAA Tournament appearance, and the 6th under Tony Bennett. UVA is in the field for the fifth year in a row.
Virginia has made nine Sweet 16s and six Elite Eights, with the last one coming in 2016. The Cavaliers have made it all the way to the Final Four twice (1981, 1984.)
UMBC is heading to just its second NCAA Tournament ever. In 2008, the Retrievers were a 15-seed, and lost 66-47 to No. 2 Georgetown in the first round.
Prediction: There are some reservations about Virginia in the NCAA Tournament, and I get it. UVA has been a great regular season team for a while, and it hasn't translated to a Final Four under Tony Bennett yet.
However, this year there are not a ton of super impressive teams. Groups like Duke and Arizona are very talented, but they have not been incredibly consistent.
Time will tell if this is the year Bennett breaks through for a Final Four or national title. No matter what happens, I don't expect the Cavaliers to have any trouble with UMBC. Virginia wins.