Virginia was awarded the fourth seed in the South Region Sunday in the 2023 NCAA Tournament. The NCAA March Madness Selection Show revealed the 68 teams that were selected in four regions — South, Midwest, West and East.
The Cavaliers (25-7, 15-5 ACC) are set to face off against the thirteenth-seeded Furman Paladins Thursday in Orlando, Fla. Tip-off time and television broadcast information will be announced at a later date.
After missing the tournament last year, Virginia is back in the field of 68 for its 25th overall NCAA Tournament appearance, and ninth under coach Tony Bennett.
Virginia is coming off of a loss to Duke in the ACC Tournament final, but had previously won four games in a row to close off the season strong. Averaging 67.8 points per game, Virginia leans heavily on its defense, which holds opponents to 60.3 points per game, tied for fifth in the country. Given the team’s propensity to go cold offensively, an elite defensive performance may be the difference in winning and losing.
Despite losing graduate student forward Ben Vander Plas to a broken hand last week, the offense showed well against North Carolina and Clemson in the ACC Tournament and has plenty of depth to go far in the tournament, rotating nine players with regularity.
The Paladins (27-7, 15-3 SoCon) are a high-scoring offense, averaging 80.4 points per game. They are led by graduate guard Mike Bothwell and graduate forward Jalen Slawson, who average 18.1 and 15.7 points per game, respectively. Those two will likely lead the upset bid for Furman Thursday as they play their first NCAA Tournament game since 1980 after winning the SoCon Tournament and securing an automatic qualifier bid.
While a high-scoring offense, Furman is a relatively small team. Three of their top five scorers are guards and their dominant forward – Slawson – is just 6’7”. Virginia must utilize its size from the likes of junior forward Kadin Shedrick, redshirt senior center Francisco Caffaro, graduate student forward Jayden Gardner and freshman guard Ryan Dunn.
If Virginia defeats Furman, the Cavaliers will play the winner of the other game in the pod of the South region, which is No.5 San Diego State against No.12 Charleston. The round of 32 matchup will also be played in Orlando if the Cavaliers advance past Furman.
The ACC — which has been regarded as one of the weaker power conferences this year — had five teams selected. Virginia, Miami, Pittsburgh, NC State and Duke all earned bids, with the Cavaliers having the highest seed at No. 4.
The Big Ten, Southeastern Conference and Big 12 were the three conferences with more teams in the big dance than the ACC — the Big Ten and Southeastern Conference with eight apiece and the Big 12 with seven.
Tip-off is set to take place at 12:40 p.m. Thursday on truTV with the chance for Virginia to advance to the round of 32 on the line.