Okay, first, let's take a quick look at last year's bracket and remember a a couple things...
1) Joining us in the 2016 Elite Eight was Oklahoma. The Sooners lost Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins, and Ryan Spangler from their E8 squad... and went 11-20 this season.
2) Also joining us in the 2016 Elite Eight was... grrrrrr..... Syracuse. The Orange lost Michael Gbinije, Malachi Richardson, and Trevor Cooney from their E8 squad... and went 18-14, failing to land a Tournament berth from off the bubble.
The point? Virginia lost Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill, and Mike Tobey, and went 22-10 this season, landing a solid 5-seed. A beat was skipped, can't say 'we didn't skip a beat,' but it was a damn solid season.
THE POINT??? We should be happy, and we should be grateful. Really, anything that happens in the 2017 Big Dance is gravy. For the program, it's already mission accomplished. Simply making the Tournament during a clear "down" year (made even more down by the Austin Nichols dismissal) is a big picture victory.
Okay, maybe we're not quite at the level of three of the other five E8 teams from last season - Kansas (2017 1-seed), Villanova (2017 1-seed), and UNC (2017 1-seed), but I'd say we're about even with Notre Dame and Oregon. No, fuck that, neither of those teams lost what we did in Brog, Gill, and Tobey. As a program, we are positioned on that tier directly below the modern bluebloods. And that's something to be proud of. And that's something that won't change, even if we lose in the dreaded 12-5 upset.
Anyway, on the to 2017 Tournament...
You can read UNCW scouting reports anywhere else, so I'm not giving you that. I'll just give you a quick prediction: We handle their pressure and hit our average of 3s -- .393 on 17.8 attempts -- which gives us enough offense to win, while our defense shuts them down. Devon Hall is a natural cover on combo guard/forward (and Seahawk leading scorer) C.J. Bryce. London will be able to hang with small guard Denzel Ingram. Our pu pu platter of bigs enjoy favorable matchups against their sawed-off center Devontae Cacok; Zay and Diakite have a length/athleticism advantage and Salt has a size/strength advantage. Jarred Reuter might even be able to play him toe-to-toe, given their similar builds (Cacok is generously listed at 6-7, 240). Our other wings and guards will be tasked with matching up with Chris Flemmings and Ambrose Mosley, which is where I think a majority of UNCW's half-court gameplan will be centered. If Kyle Guy, Marial Shayok, Ty Jerome, and Darius Thompson can rally to play good-enuff defense, I think we'll be able to successfully frustrate them. Their .366 on 26.2 attempted 3s doesn't scare me.
Perrantes and Guy from deep for the mother fucking win.
Chance of a Virginia win in the 1st round: 75%
We advance to face Florida or ETSU. I don't really have any thoughts there, other than Florida is who I wanted to see as the 4-seed in our pod because I'm not impressed with them and because I think the SEC is a crap basketball conference whose non-Kentucky members are ripe for the picking in this Tournament.
Chance of a Virginia win in the 2nd round: 60%
Sweet Sixteen vs. Villanova is a tough ask. I know that I'd be scared to see Virginia if I were a Nova fan, and there's a certain pride in being able to say that about our team. Pretty sure Villanova fans would be pulling hard for Florida in the potential Virginia/Florida matchup. Anyhoo, if we're lucky enough to make it to the Sweet Sixteen, I think our run likely ends there.
Chance of a Virginia win in the Sweet Sixteen: 20%
And I'm out of time. Enjoy the 1st round, everyone! GO HOOS!