Virginia and its ACC foes headline 2019 NCAA bracket

By – The Washington Times – Sunday, March 17, 2019

Virginia earned a No. 1 seed for the fourth time in six years, one of three ACC schools to be penciled in on the No. 1 lines in this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

The Cavaliers (29-3) will play No. 16 Gardner-Webb in the first round Friday in Columbia, South Carolina.

ACC champion Duke is the top overall seed and North Carolina also grabbed a No. 1, the NCAA Tournament selection committee revealed Sunday in its announcement of the field of 68.

“They earned their right to be there,” selection committee chair Bernard Muir said on CBS’s “March Madness Selection Show.” “Certainly with Duke and Zion (Williamson) back, a phenomenal run here in the ACC Tournament, we thought both Duke, Virginia and North Carolina were deserving on that No. 1 line.”

Gonzaga earned the final No. 1 seed. Tennessee, Michigan State, Kentucky and Michigan are the No. 2 seeds.

The Maryland Terrapins were awarded a No. 6 seed in the East Region and will play Thursday against the winner of Tuesday’s First Four game, Belmont vs. Temple, in the Round of 64.

Four other teams from Virginia will join the Cavaliers — Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth as at-large bids and Liberty and Old Dominion as conference champions. Virginia, Texas and New York are each sending five teams, tied for the most from a single state.

No teams from the District made the field for the fourth straight year; Georgetown, considered a bubble team until last week, missed the tournament again.

Cavaliers putting last year aside

Virginia has qualified for a school-record six consecutive tournaments, all of them coming during coach Tony Bennett’s tenure. But that is not most people remember his team for after the events of last year.

The Cavaliers will try to forget last year’s historic upset loss at the hands of Maryland-Baltimore County, the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 in tournament history.

Bennett said in a conference call Sunday night that his team is going to focus on the task in front of them, even as they’re bound to face more questions about the UMBC loss in the coming days.

“That kind of comes with the territory, from what happened last year,” Bennett said. “We certainly talked about it and that’s been the case all year, whether it’s fans or the media bringing that up. You answer the questions when you get asked, but there’s not a whole lot to say about it. I think it’s been dealt with and it really is time to play.”

Bennett mentioned more than once that anybody can beat anybody and said the Cavaliers respect Gardner-Webb (23-11).

The South Region also includes No. 2 Tennessee, No. 3 Purdue, No. 4 Kansas State and No. 5 Wisconsin. Cincinnati, which won the American Athletic Conference Tournament on Sunday, could be a dark horse as the No. 7.

Virginia will play Gardner-Webb on Friday at 3:10 p.m. on TruTv.

Terrapins on upset alert?

A year after missing the postseason altogether, Maryland had a bounce-back year to finish the regular season 22-10 (13-7 Big Ten) and fifth in the conference, powered by star center Bruno Fernando and freshmen Jalen Smith, Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins.

But the team’s performance petered out in the final weeks of the season, taking a surprising loss to Penn State in late February and bowing out of the Big Ten Tournament in its first game — a loss to 13th-seeded Nebraska.

The Terrapins haven’t won a postseason game of any kind since 2016. Two years ago, Maryland was also a No. 6 seed and lost to No. 11 Xavier in the first round.

Some analysts see Belmont as a dangerous team, and the Terrapins could have their hands full if Belmont beats Temple in the First Four. The committee liked Belmont enough to give them an at-large bid despite its small conference, the Ohio Valley Conference.

If Maryland advances to the Sweet 16, it will play at Capital One Arena in the District, the site of this year’s East Regional. The Terrapins might run into No. 3 LSU before that. Duke is the region’s No. 1 seed and Big Ten champion Michigan State will be a formidable No. 2.

Maryland will take the court Thursday against either Belmont or Temple at 3:10 p.m. on TruTv.

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