Omaha, NE (WWBT) - Not since 2007 have the Virginia Cavaliers experienced an NCAA Tournament. This season, Tony Bennett has UVa back in the Big Dance and hoping to make some noise, despite injuries and transfers throughout the year.
Virginia is the tenth seed in the West Region and will do battle with seventh seeded Florida on Friday afternoon in Omaha. UVa is 22-9 on the season and has stumbled into the tournament, losing five of its last eight games, including a loss to NC State in the first round of the ACC Tournament. Mike Scott leads Virginia with 18.1 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per contest, and his contributions will be crucial, especially given the Wahoos' low numbers on the bench. Bennett enters the NCAA Tournament with just seven scholarship players on his roster. K.T. Harrell and James Johnson both transferred mid-season, and Assane Sene and Malcolm Brogdon are both nursing injuries. Even if healthy, Sene will not return for the rest of the year, as he was suspended for a violation of team rules.
Florida enters this match-up 23-10, and has also struggled as of late. The Gators have fallen in four of their last five games, but came close to upsetting Kentucky in the SEC semifinals, falling by a slim 74-71 score. Five Gators average in double figures in scoring, led by Kenny Boykins, who posts 16.3 points per game. Bradley Beal is close behind at 14.6 ppg and leads the team in rebounds with 6.5 per outing.
The Cavaliers and Gators tip-off at 2:10 PM eastern time from Omaha. The winner will face either Missouri or Norfolk State in second round action on Sunday.