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NCAA Tournament 2015: Virginia Faces Up To New Expectations

Just because Virginia lost in its second game of the tournament doesn't make the season a failure.

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22: Head coach Tony Bennett of the Virginia Cavaliers yells to his team against the Michigan State Spartans during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.
CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22: Head coach Tony Bennett of the Virginia Cavaliers yells to his team against the Michigan State Spartans during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Before we do anything else can we all agree to dispense with a bit of post-elimination conventional wisdom?

We refer to the stupid notion that all of a sudden Tony Bennett can't coach and that his system will never be able to work in the post-season.

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Most intelligent fans will realize that this is just revisionism. Bennett's system scared the crap out of just about everyone all year long.

Furthermore we'd point out to you that Bennett's father, Dick, used precisely the same system to get Wisconsin to the Final Four and what Brad Stevens did at Butler was not that different from what Virginia runs.

So clearly it can work. UVA just ran into two problems, with one compounding the other: Justin Anderson's injury and appendicitis and Michigan State.

We have no doubt that UVA would have won had Anderson stayed healthy. As we pointed out earlier, he took the three pointing shooting on hiatus with him and that would have really helped UVA against Michigan State.

It's just a lot to overcome and Izzo is also a brilliant coach.

We had a minor bone to pick with UVA fans recently when there was a certain amount of indignation when Duke got the #1 seed in the South and Virginia got the #2 in the East. In retrospect, the committee appears to have gotten it right: Virginia couldn't overcome its flaws and Duke is improving game by game.

But even so, the idea that Virginia failed is just nonsense.

The NCAA tournament, as we were reminded by Mercer last spring, is a total crap shoot. Nothing should diminish Virginia's incredible year, and no one should doubt for a minute that Bennett is a masterful young coach and the perfect guy for UVA, least of all UVA people.

When King Charles II was restored to the English throne, his brother began to push him to act more aggressively.

Charles, who had hidden in barns and haystacks to avoid being executed like his father demurred: "Do go about your travels, brother; I have already been on mine."

UVA has had enough travels. The Jeff Jones era ended badly. The Pete Gillen era fell apart. Dick Leitao's prickly personality alienated many people, both in the stands and people he worked for and with.

This guy wins back-to-back regular season titles and he's won 30 games for the last two seasons.

Remember when Coach K "couldn't win the big one"?

Bennett is just getting started. If UVA fans are smart, they'll make it so he never wants to leave Charlottesville.

When it comes to bragging rights, the ACC is the clear winner at the Sweet Sixteen stage. Only Virginia has departed.

The PAC-12 has three, including surprising UCLA. The Big 12, touted all year as perhaps the nation's toughest conference, has just Oklahoma and West Virginia remaining. The Big Ten? Just Wisconsin and Michigan State.

  • ACC - Notre Dame, UNC, NC State, Louisville, Duke
  • PAC-12 - Arizona, Utah, UCLA
  • Big 12 - West Virginia, Oklahoma
  • Big Ten - Wisconsin, Michigan State
  • A-10 - Xavier (Our bad. We forgot that Xavier had moved to the Big East in the expansion/realignment frenzy).
  • MVC - Wichita
  • SEC - Kentucky
  • West Coast  - Gonzaga

Whatever happens next, State fans should be really happy with how the Wolfpack has played. Even better, this team is developing very quickly and could make a run to the Final Four. Of course it would have to overcome Louisville, but State already has an idea about the Cardinals, and then the winner of Oklahoma-Michigan State. With the accelerated improvement of the Pack's frontcourt and the continued solid play of the backcourt, State may well play on. And the Wolfpack has a very important advantage, one that Duke, Kentucky and Arizona, at least, do not have: nothing has come easy.

Well, nothing will come easy next weekend either, and that's likely true for everyone.  State is as prepared as anyone can be for the taut games to come.

Speaking of State, two ACC players got a bit wound up after games this weekend. After State upset Villanova, a Final Four pick of President Obama's, Cat Barber said "the f*** wrong with Barack Obama?"

And after UVA lost to Michigan State, senior Darion Atkins said that Virginia played "like a bunch of p*$$ies" and that he wanted the win more than his teammates did.

One final note. After his team beat Butler in overtime, Mike Brey sat down and announced that earlier in the day, his mother had died.  He didn't mention that it was also his birthday.

It must have been an extraordinarily difficult time for him. We can't imagine holding everything in to allow his team to compete without distraction and then to have to deal with all that emotion privately in the midst of a tremendously competitive game, leave alone the media attention and the other relentless demands on his time.

Certainly he has our sympathy but also our admiration. Mike Brey is a much stronger guy than he appears to be from a distance.