Greensboro, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - The third-ranked and top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers take aim at their second straight ACC Tournament title, as they begin postseason play on Thursday, with a quarterfinal matchup against the ninth-seeded Florida State Seminoles.
The winner of this game will move into the semifinals on Friday against No. 4 seed Louisville or No. 5 seed North Carolina.
For the second season in a row, it is the Virginia Cavaliers that won the ACC regular-season championship and Tony Bennett hopes that history will repeat itself in the tournament as well. It was yet another banner year for Virginia, which went 28-2 on the season (tied for the best record through 30 games in school history - 1981-82), with a 16-2 league ledger. The success led to a second straight ACC Coach of the Year award for Bennett, whose team lost to only conference powers Duke and Louisville on the season. Virginia is 34-59 in the ACC Tournament all-time.
Leonard Hamilton's Seminoles improved to 17-15 on the season with a hard- fought 76-73 victory over Clemson in tournament play on Wednesday. Florida State won the ACC Tournament in 2012 and improved to 15-22 in this event with the win over Clemson.
This series is knotted up at 22-22, as Virginia has won four straight meetings and five of the last six overall. The teams met just once in the regular- season, with the Cavs earning a 51-41 win over the Seminoles on Charlottesville on Feb. 22.
The loss of Aaron Thomas (14.5 ppg) early in the season changed things for Florida State, opening the door for freshman Xavier Rathan-Mayes to have a major impact on the team. He did just that, showing himself to be a dominant scorer (14.4 ppg) and deft distributor (4.4 apg) during the regular-season, en route to being named All-ACC Honorable Mention. Montay Brandon (11.9 ppg) and Devon Bookert (10.3 ppg) were assets as well heading into the postseason.
Rathan-Mayes' strong regular season has obviously carried over to the postseason, as he shot 11-of-19 from the floor and posted 30 points in leading the Seminoles to victory over the Tigers. Clemson pulled within two points late in the game, but wasn't able to overcome the 'Noles. FSU shot a sizzling .545 from the field and received 17 points from Brandon and another 10 from Phil Cofer in the victory.
The Cavaliers are far from being a flashy offensive team, but rather, they get the job done defensively like few teams in the country. Virginia ranks first in the country in scoring defense, limiting foes to a meager 50.3 ppg. Opponents have shot a mere .357 from the floor (third nationally). The team also boasts of a sturdy +8.3 rebounding margin.
Virginia has had to deal with the loss of talented guard Justin Anderson (13.4 ppg) down the stretch to a hand injury. Anderson is now currently sidelined after having his appendix removed. Junior guard Malcolm Brogdon led the Cavs this season at 13.7 ppg and found himself on the All-ACC First-Team. Anthony Gill (11.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg), Darion Atkins (7.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg), Mike Tobey (7.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and London Perrantes (6.3 ppg, 4.7 apg) are important contributors as well. Brogdon was named the ACC Co-Defensive Player of the Year, while Tobey was tabbed the ACC Sixth Man of the Year.