Georgia Tech-Virginia Preview
Virginia didn't dominate this regular season like its two previous 30-win campaigns, leaving it one victory shy of a third straight ACC title. One glaring example was a loss at Georgia Tech during a poor stretch in early January.
Coach Tony Bennett hopes the lumps his fourth-ranked Cavaliers endured will help them reach the ACC tournament semifinals for the third straight season with a chance at a second championship in that span.
The first step would be exacting a bit of revenge over the Yellow Jackets when second-seeded Virginia meets 10th-seeded Georgia Tech for Thursday night's quarterfinal game in Washington D.C.
Virginia (24-6) opened ACC play with a 2-3 record, including a Jan. 9 68-64 loss at Georgia Tech (19-13). That slow start ultimately cost the Cavaliers a share of their third straight regular season ACC title as they finished one game back of North Carolina at 13-5.
"Those last two years we lived off our success because we weren't put in a spot where we had to struggle," Bennett said. "I think just by circumstances of games that we dropped, suffered a little more, that hopefully we gain from that and we'll be as prepared as possible going into postseason play."
Two major factors leaning in Virginia's favor were highlighted within the last week as senior Malcolm Brogdon hauled in a pair of honors while its defensive prowess was featured in a dominating win over another highly-ranked team.
Brogdon became the first player in ACC history to earn Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the same season. The senior leads Virginia with a career-high 18.4 points per game to go with 4.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists.
Brogdon has struggled from the floor the last two games, making 10 of 25 shots, but senior center Mike Tobey picked up the slack Saturday against Louisville. The 7-footer scored 15 points for the first time in 17 games and grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds, two more than his previous 11 games combined.
Brogdon and Tobey join Anthony Gill, Evan Nolte and walk-on Caid Kirven as a group of seniors that are five wins shy of matching the most in a four-year period in program history. Ralph Sampson's 1980-83 teams won 112 games.
Virginia holds opponents to 59.6 points per game, second in the nation to Wichita State (59.3). That defensive dominance was on full display in Saturday's 68-46 shellacking of then-No. 11 Louisville.
The Cardinals finished with a season-low point total for a Virginia opponent while shooting 27.6 percent and 18.2 from 3-point range. Reserve Donovan Mitchell was the only Louisville player in double figures with 11 points, and the Cardinals missed their first 11 shots.
Georgia Tech, though, is one of only seven teams to score at least 68 points against the Cavaliers. Quinton Stephens, Adam Smith and Nick Jacobs each scored 16 in the Yellow Jackets' January win - just their second in the last 10 games of this series.
''I thought we played maybe our best, definitely to that point, game of the year against them,'' coach Brian Gregory said. ''We have to do a really good job defending the ball and not giving them second opportunities.''
Georgia Tech rallied from 18 points down in the final 9:25 for Wednesday's 88-85 overtime win over seventh-seeded Clemson. Marcus Georges-Hunt scored 24 of his 28 points after halftime and Smith added 23 for the Jackets, winners of six of seven following a 2-7 stretch.