Virginia College Hoops at March Madness
Published 9:35 am Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Figure 1 It is the most exciting part of the college hoops season
With no major league pro sports teams in the state, but 14 different Division I NCAA schools, it is not surprising that many people around here look forward to events like March Madness, rather than the weekly grind of a pro sports league. It is also not a surprise that there has been no little success too.
March Madness begins this week – and there will be two representatives from Virginia for the sportsbooks in California to get excited about. The VCU Rams and the Virginia Cavaliers will be flying the flag. There have been some more local schools represented on the big stage in recent years though.
Boom Time for Virginia Hoops
Local schools have really stepped things up in recent years, with both Richmond and NSU making it to the NCAA Tournament last year – and Hampton and ODU appearing in recent memory. Along with the success of VCU and Virginia, it could easily be argued that the state is a hotbed of hoops talent.
NSU lost out to Howard in the MEAC championship game this year, and therefore missed out on the chance to play at March Madness for a third successive season. Head coach Robert Jones had led the Spartans to a first round loss to reigning champions Baylor last year, twelve months after beating Appalachian State in his first ever tournament game with NSU. Gonzaga was too much for the team in the next round.
Richmond has a little more experience with March Madness, but qualified for the first time in eleven years in 2022. Seeded 12th, the Spiders upset the Iowa Hawkeyes – one of the pre-tournament ones to watch – before losing out to a very strong Providence team. The illness to head coach Chris Mooney has put a dampener on this season, but the Spiders could return to the big show next year.
When it comes to local champions, it really is the only the Virginia Cavaliers that have bragging rights. George Mason, way up in Fairfax, can boast a Final Four appearance in 2006 when the Patriots surprised everyone. Starting off as an 11th seed, they beat Michigan State, North Carolina and Wichita State before finally coming undone against eventual champions Florida.
But it is the Cavaliers that rule the roost in the state. More Virginians proclaim themselves as fans than any pro sports team and they have enjoyed five Final Four appearances, with a 3-2 record so far. There have been Cinderella stories, but the championship-winning year of 2019 saw the Cavaliers as the only number one seeded team to make the Final Four.
The route to the Final Four had been fairly straightforward until Virginia faced Purdue in the Elite Eight. A narrow win there teamed the Cavaliers up with Auburn in which they triumphed in overtime after a comeback in the second half. Another overtime game saw Virginia win the championship against Texas Tech, with Kyle Guy winning the Final Four Most Outstanding Player, but De’Andre Hunter also making the all-tournament team having scored a game-high 27 points in the championship game.
Figure 2 There will be Virginia involvement at March Madness yet again
This Year at March Madness
So this year it will be the Cavaliers again that most people in Isle of Wight and Surry are backing to go all the way. A number four seed, the Cavaliers face Furman in the first round and will expect to be on their way to a game against San Diego State in the second round. If those two wins go to Virginia, a potential big game against number one ranked Alabama could await in the Sweet Sixteen.
VCU will also be looking to compete though. A tough match up with Saint Mary’s will be the first obstacle for the Rams. After that would come UConn or dark horses Iona. Not many would think that VCU will make it any further – but it would be reigning champions Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen if it did get that far.
March Madness might not be as Virginia-heavy as last year, but everyone gets excited about this tournament – and it is one of the most unpredictable in sports.