The Virginia Cavaliers held the top spot in the new E News All Sports men’s college basketball poll.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Tony Bennett runs a system that doesn’t entertain everyone, says senior guard Devon Hall. He and his teammates know not everyone likes watching defensive lockdowns, which is what Virginia basketball specializes in.
The Cavaliers went 17-1 in ACC play, are ranked No. 1 in the E News All coaches poll (and the Associated Press poll) and in line to be the overall No. 1 seed when the NCAA tournament starts next week. Those are remarkable feats considering Virginia was picked to finish sixth in the ACC preseason poll and not ranked at the beginning of the season.
So there’s no denying this: The system might not be for everyone, but it absolutely works.
For his success, Bennett has been selected the E News All Sports national coach of the year.
“I think he’s figured out a way to get good guys who want to be here and want to win,” said Hall, an ACC all-defensive team selection. “People don’t like watching defense. I mean, our fans do, but some people like to watch offense. We don’t necessarily go that fast (on offense), but he’s found a way to win. He’s a smart guy.”
Bennett, now in his ninth season at Virginia, is no stranger to overachieving. He’s won 72% of his games (216-85) since arriving in Charlottesville, and taken the Cavaliers to the NCAA tournament each of the last four seasons. In 2016, the Cavaliers went as far as the Elite Eight. They are still in search of their first Final Four appearance, a destination well within reach considering what they do to opposing teams.
This season, without a superstar on the roster, Virginia has held opponents to just 52.8 points per game, while allowing them to shoot only 37.5% from the field. The Cavaliers play a stifling brand of basketball, controlling tempo better than any team in the country. They also have the No. 1 RPI in the country, and nine Quadrant 1 wins, a new metric that will be used this season by the NCAA Selection Committee.
In short, they’re really good. And while the humble 48-year-old constantly tries to divert attention away from himself, there’s no doubt Bennett is the reason for Virginia’s consistent success.
PHOTOS: E News All SPORTS ALL-AMERICA TEAM
Like this topic? You may also like these photo galleries: