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Where Does Tony Bennett’s Success At Virginia Stand In ACC History?

Tony Bennett has been very good at Virginia but there have been bigger and better runs in the ACC.

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NCAA Basketball: Duke at Virginia
Feb 15, 2017; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Virginia Cavaliers head coach Tony Bennett (L) shakes hands with Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski (R) prior to their game at John Paul Jones Arena. The Blue Devils won 65-55. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

There’s been considerable talk lately about Virginia’s strong regular-season showings, now becoming a habitual feature of ACC basketball.

Tony Bennett’s clubs finished first in three of the last five seasons, and second twice. In two of those years, 2014 and 2018, the Cavaliers went on to win the ACC Tournament as well.

For a while in 2018-19 it appeared UVa might run through the ACC without a loss, something that hasn’t happened since Duke did it in 1999.

The ’18 Cavs won their first dozen league outings before dropping an overtime contest at home against perpetually over-rated Virginia Tech. They wound up 17-1 in conference play.

This year Virginia was 4-0, 16-0 overall and seemed as nearly unbeatable as it did last year until losing at Duke on Jan. 19.

But how dominant have the Cavaliers really been over a sustained period?

Just stringing together a pair of superlative seasons, while impressive, isn’t a mark of domination. Extending excellence over at least three seasons appears to constitute more of a feat, moving the needle from excellence to dominance.

In that regard Bennett’s clubs have never done better than mount what’s tied for the ninth-best run in ACC history, and that was between 2014 and 2016. During that span Virgina went 45-9, finishing first, first and tied for second in the league.

An 11-7 mark in 2017 injected a serious stumble between those superior seasons and last year’s outstanding effort. With a loss already this season, the Cavs have nine defeats from 2017-19 and are all but out of the running for mastery sustained over a 3-year span.

Best 3-Year Runs in ACC History
(Listed Oldest to Newest in Case of Tie)
Win % Team 3 Yrs Seasons ACC Finishes Coach
.958 Duke 46-2 1998-2000 1,1,1 Krzyzewski
.917 Duke 44-4 1999-2001 1,1,1-T Krzyzewski
.905 Duke 38-4 1962-64 2,1,1 Bubas
.905 Duke 38-4 1963-65 1,1,1 Bubas
.905 UNC 38-4 1982-84 1-T,1-T, 1 Smith
.889 NCSU 32-4 1973-75 1,1,2-T Sloan
.881 UVa 37-5 1981-83 1,1-T, 1-T Holland
.857 UNC 36-6 1967-69 1,1,1 Smith
.833 USC 35-7 1969-71 2,1,2 McGuire
.833 UNC 35-8 1986-88 3,1,1 Smith
.833 UVa 45-9 2014-16 1,1,2-T Bennett

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