UVa faces tough road to final four

Madeleine LeTendre, Sports Editor

The 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament holds the potential to be one that is stocked with success for the University of Virginia (UVa) if their playing style can adapt to successfully translate to the tournament. They’re the people’s favorite to win the NCAA Championship title, but they’re slow. Though they boast the NCAA’s top-ranked defense, UVa’s unhurried speed of game is ranked in the 300s. With guard De’Andre Hunter sidelined due to a broken wrist, UVa is losing an all-around good player: he averaged 9.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in 33 games.

UVa is motivated though; they carry the stigma of flaking in March boldly on their backs. This would be the year for them to erase this: especially with Kyle Guy’s shots and Isaiah Wilkins’s impressive defense. Their record has been a notable 32-2 since their season started, and they’re looking to stay hot.

Who they will meet in the Sweet Sixteen if they get past Kansas State, though, is tough to call.

Wildcats against Wildcats, Kentucky against favorite Arizona in the round of 32 is looking like it is going to be a good match: if Kentucky does not get knocked out by Davidson in the round of 64.

Arizona Wildcat and McDonald’s All-American, center Deandre Ayton was the top pick for the NBA’s mock draft: and he’s peaking. He had the best game of his career against the University of Southern California with a whopping 32 points and 18 rebounds, shooting 14 of 20 in the field. The Wildcats wiped out the Trojans for the Pac-12 title 75-61.

Kentucky was 17-9 overall and 6-7 in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) as of Feb. 14, but they’ve been playing extremely better since then; they wiped out Tennessee for the SEC Championship title after losing to them 76-65 in January. The words “Kentucky” and “dark horse” being grouped together may sound foreign to the ear, but they may have a chance of meeting UVa in the Sweet Sixteen.

Kentucky’s duo of talented freshmen,small forward Kevin Knox and guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, going head-to-head against Arizona’s Ayton and guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright lead many believe that it is would be an entertaining game. If Jackson-Cartwright can handle Gilgeous-Alexander, and Ayton plays like he did for the Pac-12 title, Arizona is looking to be successful.

If UVa were to get knocked out in the tournament, it would be by the Arizona Wildcats in the Sweet Sixteen. They’re two strong teams who are at their peaks. With the loss of Hunter, UVa is losing the all-around player that they may need and their confidence, which is something Arizona is going to have a lot of. The Cavaliers need to keep Ayton from shooting in the field to advance.

If UVa does so, they will still be fighting for a spot in the Final Four against either third-seeded Tennessee or second-seeded Cincinnati.

Tennessee is looking good: they are back in the tournament for the first time in four years. They are being led by SEC Coach of the Year Rick Barnes with power forward and SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams as part of the team.

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas says the Vols are “an excellent defensive team with terrific depth.”

The same could be said about the Bearcats.

“Cincinnati has eight games in which it has held its opponent to 50 or fewer points,” Bilas said. “Second-most in Division I. Guess who has a dozen of those? Yep, it’s Virginia.”

That said, whether UVa meets Tennessee or Cincinnati is tough to call. However, all three teams play excellent defense, but UVa’s is looking like the best.

If UVa reaches the Final Four, they will be playing the winner of the West region, which could be Xavier, the University of North Carolina, Michigan or Gonzaga. If UNC advances, it is important to remember that UVa wiped out the Tarheels 71-63 in the ACC Tournament. But Hunter scored 10 of those points in 18 minutes of play: it is going to be a close game.

Who they would play in the final round is tough to call: the people’s favorite is Villanova, though Michigan State, Kansas and Duke are also looking good. These teams know the tournament very well.

However if the Cavaliers can cope with the loss of Hunter, they could be looking at a shot to take the trophy to Charlottesville for the first time.