5. Virginia (8-1, 1-0)
Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers cut down the nets back in 2019 but haven’t won a single NCAA Tournament game since. Last year’s squad was another talented bunch that played inspired defense, but who memorably fell on a last-second shot to Furman. One thing we’ve seen early this season is that this year’s Virginia team is a lot like those of years past: they play extremely good defense but are also susceptible to upset.
The Cavaliers have picked up some nice wins, clearing Florida in the opening week before getting double-digit wins over Texas A&M and Syracuse more recently. They’ve had phenomenal efforts from the defense in nearly every game this season, though that one loss is reason to worry about this team. Virginia lost 65-41 to Wisconsin at the Fort Myers Tip-Off in what was certainly their most abhorrent offensive showing of the season.
The Cavaliers are getting great play from Reece Beekman and an entourage of young talent, but this doesn’t feel like the type of Virginia team that’s going to surprise and win the ACC again. We’ve certainly been wrong about Virginia in this regard, especially by underrating what this defense can accomplish. They look like a team that could be nationally ranked in the coming months, especially when conference play begins, especially if the shooting doesn’t let them down.