Norlander: Virginia Still Best Team In College Basketball

Tony Bennett's team will go far, says Norlander.

After Hours With Amy Lawrence
March 29, 2019 - 10:54 am
Ty Jerome

USA TODAY images

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Virginia had to get the monkey off its back that lingered from a disappointing tournament appearance in 2018.

In last year’s NCAA Tournament, the Cavaliers became the first No. 1 seed to ever lose to a No. 16 seed when they fell to UMBC. They took a little while to get going in their opening round game this year too, but now they seem to have found their groove.

Virginia advanced to the Elite Eight on Thursday night when it defeated the Oregon Ducks 53-49. CBS Sports College Basketball Insider Matt Norlander thought Virginia’s veteran presence made the difference.

“I think that it was the veteran headiness of Virginia,” Norlander said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Tony Bennett did not go to his bench in this game. In fact, I would say that he used less of it than even I was expecting, and I didn’t think that he would tap into it too much there. But he relied on his three best players: Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, De’Andre Hunter, who did not play great games. And then, as expected, he played Mamadi Diakite a lot.”

Virginia’s bench combined to play only 11 minutes, but they weren’t really needed. The starters put up enough points in what turned out to be a low-scoring game.

Oregon put up a fight, but ultimately were undone by some inexperienced play down the stretch.

“The game was as bumpy as expected. It wasn’t a high possession game, and that’s what pretty much everyone thought would be the case. Now Oregon, the reason why it was not able to keep it close late is had you Louis King take a few bad shots. He became a freshman in those moments.”

Up next for Virginia is a date with Purdue in the Elite Eight. The Boilermakers beat Tennessee in a thrilling overtime contest earlier on Thursday. They allowed the Vols to claw their way back from an 18-point deficit, but then re-asserted themselves to win in OT.

Still, Norlander doesn’t think Matt Painter’s team has what it takes to knock off Tony Bennett’s team in the next round.

“Oregon was maybe only a twelve seed in name given how it played as of late. I actually thought Virginia would win more convincingly than it did. So, hats off to the Ducks for making a Sweet 16. Dana Altman is the only coach ever to get to a Sweet 16 twice while coaching a twelve seed. They just ran into the team that, even though they didn’t look it tonight, I still believe, and have said for months now, is the best team in college basketball; and that’s Virginia.”