- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 11, 2012

VIRGINIA

Record: 22-9, 9-7

Coach:Tony Bennett (53-40, third season; 122-73 in six seasons overall)

Conference: Atlantic Coast (at-large)

Last NCAA appearance: 2007 (round of 32)

Starters, Pos., Yr., Pts.

Jontel Evans, G, Jr., 7.3

Sammy Zeglinski, G, Sr., 8.7

Joe Harris, G, So., 11.5

Mike Scott, F, Sr., 18.1

Akil Mitchell, F, So., 4.1

Critical juncture: The Cavaliers were 15-2 after a 70-38 rout of Georgia Tech on Jan. 19. But senior center Assane Sene was diagnosed with a right ankle injury and didn’t play again, and Virginia split its final 14 games. Sene wasn’t a statistical dynamo, but left the Hoos without a crucial element in their defense.

Reason for optimism: Mike Scott. The well-rounded fifth-year senior was perhaps the ACC’s most valuable player, carrying the Cavaliers after Sene and Malcolm Brogdon were lost to injury. He scored at least 20 points in five of Virginia’s last six games and will likely do so again in the postseason.

Reason for pessimism: Depth. Virginia’s results in its last three games - three losses, a two-point win at snakebit Virginia Tech and an overtime victory at Maryland - do not suggest a team capable of surviving the first weekend of the tournament.

Wild card: Style. Ultimately, the Cavaliers’ preferred way to play means they’ll have a chance against nearly everyone. Virginia has suffered seven of its nine losses by three points or less, and that includes games against Florida State (twice), Duke and North Carolina.

The draw: The Cavaliers’ five-year drought ended despite a harrowing end to the regular season. Virginia earned a No. 10 seed and will face Florida in its first game on Friday at 2:10 p.m., with either Missouri or Norfolk State awaiting in the round of 32.

Number of note: 1

Victory in the past 16 NCAA tournaments for the Cavaliers - a 2007 first round defeat of Albany. Virginia has not advanced to the round of 16 since 1995.

Projection: There’s no reason Virginia can’t at least win one game, but the Cavaliers’ seven-man rotation has not exactly thrived in the season’s closing weeks. Don’t expect multiple victories from Bennett’s team, but it is a triumph simply to have squeezed a tournament berth out of such a limited roster.