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Tony Bennett Is A Good Guy

And we hope Virginia makes the field

Virginia v Notre Dame
 SOUTH BEND, IN - JANUARY 29: Head coach Tony Bennett of the Virginia Cavaliers is seen during the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Purcell Pavilion on January 29, 2022 in South Bend, Indiana.
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

We didn’t get a chance to mention it Thursday, but we wanted to take a minute to mention how cool Virginia, and Tony Bennet, were to Mike Krzyzewski Wednesday night.

We’re sure you saw it but if by chance you missed it, they had a small ceremony and Bennett said this: “I want to take this opportunity, because this is important for me and our team and the rest of us, to acknowledge your monumental contributions to the basketball world. Mainly our game in college basketball. Your success is remarkable, and you stood the test of time.”

It was a really kind thing to do and Bennett did it well.

We’ll say this about Bennett: we really don't like his style. We realized today that his dad, Dick, used it to drive games down into the 40s and 30s at Wisconsin and thought that Tony had loosened up...then we realized the clock had gotten shorter so there are inherently more shots.

But disliking the way Virginia plays does not diminish our respect for Bennett, and we’re not just talking basketball.

We have immense respect for the man for a number of reasons, not least of all for the balance he seems to have in his life. When #16 seed UMBC destroyed Virginia, he was humble, thoughtful and grounded. He’s religious but never pushes it (although he’s generally happy to talk about it when asked).

His players are, almost always, well-behaved and never trouble for anyone. Who’s even been obnoxious? Not many.

We don’t like that Virginia slows every game down and makes it a slugfest but the character of the program is superb and that comes from Bennett.

When Krzyzewski leaves the stage in a few weeks, at whatever point that is, Bennett will likely be the most prominent coach in the league, possibly the new face of the ACC (we never thought the face of the league would bear an uncanny resemblance to Smithers but life has funny twists).

If that’s the case, then the conference will be in a good place.

Coach K also said that Virginia should be in the tournament. It’s going to be a hard case to make by the numbers. A home win over Duke would obviously have been huge.

But on some level the trajectory of a season should count. A team that started well but staggers into March should get discounted, just as a team that caught fire late should get some consideration.

Virginia closes with Florida State at home and Louisville on the road, two teams that have struggled mightily.

If the tournament were held today, #6 Virginia would get a first-round bye and face the winner of NC State and Boston College. Then the ‘Hoos would get Notre Dame.

We think they can run the table on those games in Brooklyn, no matter who floats up or down. We’d be very surprised if they didn’t make it to at least Friday. And if they do, then the Committee will have something to think about.