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SportsCollegeCollege Basketball

Have some respect for the Virginia Cavaliers

The Virginia Cavaliers celebrate after defeating the Duke

The Virginia Cavaliers celebrate after defeating the Duke Blue Devils to win the the championship game of the 2014 Men's ACC Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on March 16, 2014. Credit: Getty Images / Streeter Lecka

Virginia won the ACC regular-season title, then its first ACC Tournament since 1976, yet still was the final No. 1 seed chosen and widely is viewed as vulnerable if it faces trendy Final Four pick Michigan State, the fourth seed.

C'mon, people, a little respect for the storied -- if somewhat bloated -- ACC, please. Coach Tony Bennett has the Cavaliers playing a plodding, defensive-minded style that could well mess with the minds of late-round opponents.

Malcolm Brogdon averages 12.3 points. Joe Harris averages 11.6. No one else can boast double digits.


Best big man: Adreian Payne (Michigan State)

Tom Izzo's Michigan State is at its Michigan State-iest when it has a strong inside presence, and this team gets that in large part from Payne, a senior center.

The 6-10, 245-pounder averages 15.8 points and 7.4 rebounds for the Spartans.


Best guard/playmaker: Shabazz Napier (Connecticut)

Napier's play has fans invoking a sacred Huskies name for comparison purposes: Kemba Walker, star of the 2011 Connecticut national championship team.

It's not sacrilege. This guy is good, and should have UConn positioned to make some noise in its return to postseason action after missing last season because of poor Academic Progress Report scores.

Napier's finest moment: a buzzer-beater over now-No. 1-overall seed Florida in early December that left Gampel Pavilion in hysterics.


Best go-to guy: Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati)

The 6-4 senior guard from Yonkers, who averages 20.7 points and 2.6 assists, is the Bearcats' best hope to secure the two victories that would land him near home at Madison Square Garden for the East Regional semifinals.


Best player you've never heard of: Wesley Saunders (Harvard)

Harvard is in its third NCAA Tournament in a row under Tommy Amaker and coming off an upset of New Mexico last year, thanks to experience and talent such as that embodied by Mr. Saunders, who became only the third Harvard player to be named the conference's Player of the Year. (Neither of the other two were Jeremy Lin.)

Saunders averaged 14.8 points and 3.9 assists.


Best bet to spring an upset: Providence

The Friars are on a roll after winning the first championship of the new Big East, and North Carolina might have peaked just a tad too early with its late-season winning streak. Two wins gets Providence back to the Garden.


Best matchup: Cincinnati vs. Harvard

This quickly became a popular No. 5 vs. No. 12 upset pick when the brackets came out, but truth is this is a tough matchup to expect the Crimson to overcome.

None of which is to say this will not be a fascinating, close game. Because it will be.


Best coaching matchup: Kevin Ollie (Connecticut) vs. Phil Martelli (St. Joseph's)

In the Jim Calhoun days, this would have been a classic clash of brash, quotable Northeasterners, but Kevin Ollie will offer an interesting contrast as he ushers in a new era with his first NCAA Tournament as a coach -- against a guy who joined the St. Joe's staff when Ollie was a 12-year-old in L.A.

New York Sports