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‘College GameDay’ analysts have high praise for Virginia men’s basketball

Show will start Saturday at 11 a.m. at John Paul Jones Arena

<p>"College GameDay" analysts Rece Davis, Jay Williams and Seth Greenberg will return to John Paul Jones arena for the third time Saturday.&nbsp;</p>

"College GameDay" analysts Rece Davis, Jay Williams and Seth Greenberg will return to John Paul Jones arena for the third time Saturday. 

ESPN’s “College GameDay” crew arrived in Charlottesville  Friday morning ahead of Saturday night’s nationally televised game between No. 2 Virginia men’s basketball team and Virginia Tech — the state’s biggest rivalry, and a potential No.1-clinching clash for the Cavaliers.

In between production meetings and getting some shots of their own in on the court at John Paul Jones Arena, analysts Seth Greenberg, Jay Williams and Jay Bilas had some high praise for Tony Bennett’s team – and the coach himself.

“The one-and-done culture we live in now, we’re always talking about the next great draft prospect, we rarely focus on the best team,” Williams said. “And I’m willing to say this — U.Va. is the best team in the country right now.” 

For Bilas, it’s Virginia’s ability to disrupt rhythm that makes them so good.

“Virginia is very good offensively, but it’s not the lead story here,” Bilas said. “To be as good as they are defensively and to be able to do it over extended periods like that, they’re really hard to play against. Basketball, I think most people agree, is about rhythm – establishing yours, disrupting theirs. They disrupt rhythm better than anybody I’ve seen in I don’t know how many years.”

All agreed that there’s almost a historic quality to the way Virginia has dominated the ACC this season, as the team is 12-0 in conference play going into this weekend’s clash.

“One of the things that I really have learned to appreciate about Tony’s teams, in particular this year, that I do not see in college basketball is the willingness [and] the effort that’s 24/7, 365 [days a year],” Williams said. “You’re maintaining and sustaining a certain level of play that I don’t think a lot of teams are able to do and this is an anomaly here.”

Greenberg, who served as Virginia Tech’s head coach from 2003-2012 and coached against Bennett teams, captured the Cavalier’s success in another way.

“When you get good, as good as Virginia’s gotten, you become what I call a ‘red letter game,’ where you become a big game on someone’s schedule,” Greenberg said. “To me, that’s the whole goal. You know you have a good team when you’re a team that other people want to play against.”

They also praised the way that Bennett has built his program and coached the Cavaliers.

“I’ve been saying on ESPN that I think National Coach of the Year is between him [Tony Bennett] and Chris Holtmann, and I would say that Tony is probably the favorite right now,” Williams said. “I think that the style and the system in which Tony has been able to implement, it’s like old-school basketball. It’s like you’re seeing what basketball used to be like back in the day where teams actually put effort on the defensive end.”

“Everyone sees Tony’s calm demeanor but they don’t see his fierce competitive spirit,” Greenberg said. “His team has a calm demeanor, but a fierce competitive spirit which is a great combination.”

A defensive focus and that calm and competitive combination are recurring themes as the analysts break down the team’s success. But they also credit the fact that Virginia works so well as a unit.  For Williams, togetherness is one of the most underrated qualities in basketball, and he said the Cavaliers have it.

“Kyle Guy is really good. Ty Jerome is really good. Devon Hall is really good. You have a lot of talented players on this team,” Williams said. “But the thing that makes them great is the system—and also the fact that they’ve all bought into the system. At the end of the day, U.Va. has to worry about U.Va., because what they do – their principles – that takes care of itself.”