Virginia

2017-18 record: 31-3, 17-1 in the ACC

Head coach: Tony Bennett

Tenure at Virginia: 10th season

Career coaching record: 288-119

Home court: John Paul Jones Arena

Starters: G Ty Jerome, G Kyle Guy, C Jack Salt, F Mamadi Diakite, F De’Andre Hunter

Bench: G Kihei Clark, G Marco Anthony, F Braxton Key, F Kody Stattmann, F Jay Huff

Overview: Led by the dynamic backcourt of Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy, as well the mid-season emergence of ACC Sixth Man of the Year De’Andre Hunter, last year’s Cavaliers started the season unranked but rode their defensive excellence to an ACC tournament victory and the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. Of course, Virginia suffered a historic first-round 74-54 defeat at the hands of UMBC , becoming the first No. 1 seed ever to lose to a No. 16 seed. With Hunter back from the wrist injury that held him out of that game and the backcourt returning, the Cavaliers retain their core trio of star power that makes them a contender once again. 

For Virginia, the key to success this season will be learning from the mistakes that haunted it in that UMBC game. While Bennett’s famed “pack-line” defense will ensure the team is once again among the nation’s best defensively, the Cavaliers have high expectations for offensive improvement led by their star trio, as well as Alabama transfer Braxton Key. Incoming recruits Kody Stattmann and Kihei Clark should add some scoring production as well.

However, the biggest question for the Cavaliers will be bench depth, particularly in the backcourt following the departure of Devon Hall. Against UMBC, Virginia’s big men struggled mightily in guarding smaller guards, and the team comes into this season with just two guards ready to contribute off the bench. 

One thing that needs to go right: De’Andre Hunter lives up to the hype and blossoms into an NBA lottery-level talent and, alongside one of the best backcourt tandems in the nation, leads Virginia right back to the top of the ACC. 

One thing that could go wrong: As a largely front-loaded team, the Cavaliers become heavily dependent on their stars and struggle to produce offensively, leaving them a clear step behind Duke and North Carolina in the ACC.