UVA Basketball Has More Offensive Punch this Year Heading into NCAA Tournament
The Virginia basketball team will be looking for a better showing this year in the NCAA tournament.
The 'Hoos are a better offensive team this season statistically, scoring about five points more than last year.
The Cavaliers first opponent this year will be Gardner-Webb. The Runnin' Bulldogs are in the NCAA tournament for the first time ever.
Gardner-Webb became a division-one program in 2000. This year the Bulldogs got an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament winning the Big South Conference tournament as a 4-seed.
"They're very efficient offensively and defensively," says UVa coach Tony Bennett. "Their numbers are really good. One of their players had a terrific game in the championship game of the conference. They have good guards that can score. Very good, well coached. Everybody who's in this tournament can play."
You can point to last year as a reminder when Virginia became the first 1-seed to lose to a 16-seed in the NCAA tournament.
This year's Cavaliers team has more offensive punch averaging 71.8 ppg compared to 67.1 ppg last year.
"I think the biggest word if I had to describe it would be versatility," says UVa radio analyst Jimmy Miller. "Their depth at all five positions and their ability to score and manufacture points at all the positions, probably more so than in year's past. It's been fun to see them grow and develop."
"I think offensively, you look at the stats, obviously we're a little better," says UVa sophomore forward Austin Katstra. "We have three of the best players in the country. Our practices have definitely been more intense than last year. We have goals that we want to accomplish and we have to ramp up the intensity a bit to accomplish those goals I think."
Virginia's De'Andre Hunter was named a third-team All-American Monday by the US Writer's Association.
He's projected to be a top-ten pick in June's NBA draft. Hunter did not play in last year's NCAA tournament, out with a broken wrist.
"I think he's itching at the chance to play," says UVa associate head coach Jason Williford. "He had to sit last year. It was tough for us and for him, but his development has been phenomenal. Being able to make plays, specifically guards that can make plays when the offense gets stagnant. De'Andre can do that and we have to find a way to get him the ball more. Either on the post or on the elbow where he can be effective."
It's a Virginia team that's trying to get to the Final Four for the first time since 1984.
"That's their ultimate goal to play in the Final Four and win a National Championship," says Miller. "To get there it takes skill and focus. It takes great playing and great coaching and it also takes a little bit of luck too."
Virginia plays Gardner-Webb at about 3pm Friday in Columbia, South Carolina. The game is televised by TruTV.