Virginia has finally ended its Final Four drought, having advanced to college basketball’s biggest stage for the first time since 1984.
But now that the Cavaliers are here, can they win it all?
Here are five reasons why we think they can, heading into a Saturday semifinal against Auburn.
1). Defense wins
Virginia is sixth in the country in defensive efficiency and first in points allowed, and preventing the other team from scoring points is always a great path to success.
Defense has always been a calling card for the Cavaliers in Tony Bennett’s tenure, and it will have to be against a high-octane Auburn offense Saturday.
2). Backcourt power
Teams that win the national championship always have strong guard play, and that is a feature of the Cavaliers. Junior guard Kyle Guy was a first team all-ACC performer who is averaging 15.2 points per game and junior Ty Jerome is averaging 13.3 points a game for Virginia.
Sophomore De’Andre Hunter can play both forward and guard and is averaging 14.9 points a game. All three are also good defenders who take away the best players of the opposing team.
3). Perimeter shooting
The ability to stretch the floor is a trait all championship teams have, and Virginia can shoot the rock from the outside. Guy (42.7 percent), Hunter (42.4 percent) and Jerome (39.9 percent) all can bury 3-pointers and keep Virginia in any game. Combine that with stout defense, and it’s no wonder Virginia has just three losses on the year.
4). Ball security
Of the four teams left, Virginia averages the fewest turnovers per game at exactly nine per game. Not only is that total the fewest of the remaining teams left, but it’s the fewest of any team in the entire country this year. That makes it harder for other teams to beat Virginia, since the Cavaliers don’t beat themselves.
5). Wide-open field
Often at Final Fours, traditional powerhouses such as Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Kentucky stand in the way. Or if not those programs, a loaded squad like last year's Villanova team is lurking.
That’s not the case this year. Of the four teams in the Final Four, only Michigan State has won a national championship in its history. The Spartans have won two titles, but none since 2000. Virginia will head to Minneapolis knowing it has as good of a shot as anybody.