Belmont battles Virginia in East Regional melee

Mar 20, 2015 - 2:40 PM Charlotte, NC ( - The Virginia Cavaliers begin their quest for a possible national championship when they take on the Belmont Bruins in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament from Time Warner Cable Arena on Friday afternoon.

Both teams are in the East Region, and the winner will advance to the third round on Sunday to face either seventh-seeded Michigan State or 10th-seeded Georgia.

Belmont was given the 15th seed in the region as reward for winning the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, which it did in thrilling fashion when Taylor Barnette drained the game-winning 3-pointer with 3.2 seconds remaining in regulation to defeat Murray State. The Bruins, one of only two teams in the nation (Gonzaga) to have earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in seven of the last 10 years, are in the Big Dance for the fourth straight season, but they have yet win a game (0-6). Furthermore, Belmont (22-10, 11-5 OVC) is just 1-7 over the years against teams from the ACC.

Virginia has been among the elite teams in the country all season long, the team logging an impressive 29-3 mark, and winning the ACC regular-season title with a 16-2 record. The Cavaliers, who dropped a 71-67 decision to North Carolina in the ACC Tournament semifinals last Friday, were a No. 1 seed in last year's NCAA Tournament where they advanced to the Sweet 16, but had to settle for a No. 2 seed this time around. As a result, Virginia is making back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time since 1994-95. The Cavs own an all-time record of 24-18 in 18 NCAA Tournament appearances, and they have been to the Final Four twice before (1981 and 1984).

This bout marks the second meeting between Belmont and Virginia on the hardwood, with the Cavaliers claiming a 94-74 triumph on Dec. 28, 1999.

Something has to give in this outing, as Belmont comes in ranked fourth nationally in field goal percentage (.562) while Virginia sits third in field goal percentage defense (.395). For the Bruins to pull off the upset, guys like All-OVC First Teamer Craig Bradshaw (18.1 ppg, 3.2 apg), Second Team selection Evan Bradds (14.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and Barnette (10.7 ppg) are going to have to be at the top of their game. Belmont will also need to take much better care of the basketball as it averages nearly 14 turnovers per contest. Tightening up on defense will also be paramount to any success the team achieves, as foes have produced 70.3 ppg this season in hitting their shots 45.2 percent of the time.

As stated, Virginia prides itself on playing stingy defense, the team permitting an average of only 50.7 ppg, which ranks as the lowest yield in all of Division I. The Cavaliers are only netting 65.3 ppg themselves, doing so behind solid shooting efforts of .463 overall, .361 beyond the arc, and .723 at the free-throw line. They also control the boards against the majority of foes, logging a +7.8 rebounding margin, while committing fewer than 10 miscues per outing. Malcolm Brogdon (13.9 ppg, 2.5 apg), Justin Anderson (12.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg) and Anthony Gill (11.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg) are the only players averaging double figures for UVA, while a guy like London Perrantes has limited scoring ability (6.4 ppg), but serves his teammates well in dishing out 4.8 apg.

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