Dick Bennett was so nervous about his son’s season at Virginia that he wouldn’t watch the games. He waited for Tony’s call afterward to get updates.
Today, Dick couldn’t be prouder. Virginia coach Tony Bennett cut down the nets Sunday after the Cavaliers defeated Duke for the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship. It was Virginia’s first title since Ralph Sampson’s career ended in 1983.
It’s been a remarkable run for Bennett, who took two of his three Washington State teams to the NCAA Tournament before arriving in Charlottesville, and now it continues with the expectation of being the favorite in the East Region.
Virginia is smoking, having won 16 of 17, but this is new territory for the Cavs, who are looking to reach a Final Four for the first time since 1984.
The dangerous teams may be further down the bracket.
Third-seeded Iowa State defeated three NCAA tourney teams on its way to winning the Big 12 tournament. The Cyclones have one of the nation’s top offenses.
Fourth-seeded Michigan State is healthy and cruised to the Big Ten tournament title with a 14-point victory over Michigan on Sunday.
“It gives us a little barometer of where we are and where we can be,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said.
No. 2 seed Villanova has had a few extra days to stew over its Big East quarterfinal loss to Seton Hall. The Wildcats are bidding to return to the Final Four for the first time since 2009.
The regional final site is also a big story here. Four survivors will meet on March 28 in Madison Square Garden, the first time the famed building has held NCAA Tournament games since the gambling scandals of the early 1950s.