Keeler: Cavs in position for run in NCAAs

Virginia’s men’s basketball team did something this past weekend that it hadn’t done in 33 years — win the ACC regular season title outright.

It’s a great accomplishment, and with the Cavaliers’ win over Syracuse last week they jumped to No. 5 in the AP and USA Today polls this week.

The Cavaliers might be ready to have their best postseason ever. I like a lot of things about Virginia, including the way they play together.

The Cavaliers have a lot of different pieces and I think they will be a real factor in the NCAA Tournament.

Virginia has won 13 in a row, and are 25-5 overall, and 16-1 in the ACC. The Cavaliers lost to Tennessee 87-52 on Dec. 30, since then their only loss has come to No. 4 Duke.
They don’t have superstar players — Malcolm Brogdon is their top scorer at 12.6 points per game, with Joe Harris just behind him at 11.3 per game.

Virginia mostly relies on its defense, and it’s worked well for them for most of the season.
Sadly, I remember when the Cavaliers last won the title outright — 1981. I was just a kid, and at the time I was a die-hard Cavaliers fan.

I loved 7-foot-4 center Ralph Sampson, probably mostly because I knew he was from Harrisonburg, which I knew was somewhat close by.

I’m not going to lie, I pretty much lived and breathed U.Va. at the time. Looking back, it was a pivotal time for me as a college basketball fan.

I loved the Cavaliers and they made it to the Final Four in 1981, but they lost in the Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight the next two years. They were one of the favorites to win it all each year.

From 1980-83 the Cavaliers went a combined 84-13, but only had one Final Four appearance to show for it. The following year, after Sampson had graduated, they made it back to the Final Four with a 21-12 record.

They didn’t even make it into the tournament the following season. Anyone that knows me well knows that records like that won’t keep me as a fan.

I eventually got smart and became a Duke fan, not before becoming a Georgetown fan first.

Even though I’m not a die-hard Cavaliers fan, I’ve always had a soft place in my heart for U.Va. Whenever they make it into the NCAA Tournament, which has only happened three times in the last 16 years, I have always rooted for them. Maybe it’s just the little kid in me coming out.

I will actually be going to the ACC men’s basketball tournament next week (yes, I like to brag about it just a little), and the Cavaliers will be the top seed. I will definitely be rooting for them, along with Duke, of course.

I would love to see a Duke-U.Va. final, if I can’t get a Duke-North Carolina final. There’s nothing better than beating Carolina in a final and watching all those fans in Carolina Blue go home crying (I have plenty of experience with this in women’s basketball).

I may also seriously consider doing something I haven’t done in probably 30 years — picking the Cavaliers to go to the Final Four.

When I was much younger and rooted for the Cavs, I would get my hopes up only to eventually be let down. I hope that doesn’t happen to current Cavs’ fans this year.

Hopefully, Virginia will make a strong run in the NCAA Tournament, maybe even a Final Fourth berth or even win it all.

Don’t worry Cavalier fans — if they don’t do as well as you would like, you can always do like I did and become a Duke fan. There’s always room on the bandwagon.

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd