The University of Virginia Cavaliers became the first upset of the 2023 NCAA Tournament after losing to 13-seed Furman Paladins 68-67. The Cavaliers entered the tournament as a 4-seed after going 15-5 in the ACC regular season and losing to the Duke Blue Devils in the ACC Tournament Championship.
It seems odd to mention their first-round struggles after the Cavaliers won the NCAA tournament just four years ago in 2019. However as Bleacher Report pointed out, the first round has not been kind to head coach Tony Bennett’s team.
2018: 1st round loss to No. 16 UMBC
2021: 1st round loss to No. 13 Ohio
2023: 1st round loss to No. 13 Furman
Pain for Virginia once again. pic.twitter.com/CZkXakIWb0
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 16, 2023
Bennett was named head coach at Virginia on March 31, 2009. The prior season the Cavaliers were 63-60 under head coach Dave Leitao. In his final season (2008-2009), Leiatao went just 10-18 and 4-12 in the ACC.
Since taking over the head coaching role, Bennett has lead Virginia to a 341-125 record including 176-75 in the ACC. He has 1st in the ACC Conference regular season five times in the last 9 seasons. They have finished 2nd 3 times in that same span and never worse than 6th in one of the most difficult conferences in college basketball.
Bennett has brought consistency, culture, and, winning to Charlottesville. He has also brought a slow pace and exceptional defense. It’s not always pretty but it works. At least in the regular season.
Today’s loss to Furman is another mark on the resume of a program that has become the top class in the ACC. With the high-level defense that they bring, you would think that their results would be better as teams have not seen this in the regular season. It is one of the odd things that make the tournament great.
Unless you are a Cavaliers fan.
You can bet that Virginia will learn from this and be back next season. Just as they were in 2019 when they cut down the nets. They have the right coach to keep them focused after another tough first-round exit.
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