There was nothing wrong with giving the fourth No. 1 seed to Virginia. The Cavaliers won the ACC regular season and tournament titles and are 19-2 since New Year’s. Exactly why the committee chose to put the Cavaliers in the same region with the weakest of the No. 2 seeds (Villanova) is anyone’s guess. Maybe committee chairman Ron Wellman wanted to have an ACC team in the Final Four for the first time since 2010.
As well as the Cavaliers have played, they better show up for their opener against Coastal Carolina. Tony Bennett was nine years old the first time Cliff Ellis took a team to the NCAA tournament (South Alabama, 1979), and wily old Cliff will have his Chanticleers ready.
Virginia should advance and should play George Washington. The Colonials, back in the tournament for the first time in seven years, are perfectly capable of beating Memphis, a hot-and-cold team all season. They aren’t likely to beat Virginia, but Mike Lonergan, lifelong Maryland fan, would no doubt relish a shot at knocking off Virginia.
The Cavaliers should survive Raleigh and head to New York. Waiting for them there will in all likelihood be Michigan State. Tom Izzo looks to have his Spartans March-ready once again after an injury-plagued February. Do not be surprised if Izzo’s team ends up playing Harvard in the second round.
No. 6 seed North Carolina could go to the Final Four; it also could lose its opener to Providence. Who can figure out these Tar Heels? Most likely, UNC survives Providence but will have a very hard time with Iowa State, which faces a dangerous North Carolina Central team in its opener.
Can Virginia reach the Final Four for the first time in 30 years? Absolutely. But it may have to beat Michigan State and Iowa State in New York to do so. That will not be easy.