"I think how we won yesterday is a huge testament of our growth from previous year", explained Virginia guard Kyle Guy. Senior forward DJ Laster then willed the Bulldogs to the conference title by dropping points against Radford in an 11-point victory. "Let's get focused on preparing to play the best we can play", Craft said. David Efianayi added 12 points and for at least one half of basketball, Gardner-Webb (23-12) felt unstoppable.
A year after going a dismal 12-20 and finishing last in the SEC, Coach Kermit Davis has quickly turned the University of MS basketball team around in a 20-win campaign this season. Instead, as he reminded his players often after the huge upset a year ago, defeats don't define who you are; instead, it is how you respond to adversity and how hard you try.
But just because the Cavaliers are the top seed with the nation's best defense doesn't mean they'll cover the Virginia vs. Oklahoma spread.
Virginia is now trailing Gardner-Webb, 17-10, at the under-12 timeout.
The No. 5 seed Cavaliers went scoreless for almost eight minutes in a second-round game against No. 4 Florida in 2017, losing 65-39 in their most lopsided loss in the past five seasons.
Virginia's attack, like Ole Miss', is led by a strong back court trio. Jerome drains 39.5 percent of his 3-pointers and leads the team with 5.4 assists per game.
Oklahoma's starting five accounted for 79 of the 95 points scored in the Round of 64 game. UVA is now 30-3 on the season, 5-1 on a neutral floor, 23-10 against the spread and 18-15 with the under. Oklahoma has better athletes and is more capable of scoring.
Oklahoma and Virginia have played each other only three times before this weekend. The Sooners showed good balance against Ole Miss and didn't need the 3-ball to win big.
Luckily for Virginia, Oklahoma is nothing special offensively. Seeing how much fun UMBC had past year at the expense of Virginia, the Runnin' Bulldogs are working the Cavaliers and leading 36-30 at halftime. No one expected them to get to this point - further than they got with Trae Young and Kam McGusty - especially before the season started. Whenever Diakite does make a three-pointer, it energizes the rest of the team, much like one of his trademark blocks into the first few rows of seats at John Paul Jones Arena. Limiting their inside shots and making threes of their own should be enough for the Cavaliers to oust the Sooners.
Virginia's redshirt sophomore - destined to be an National Basketball Association lottery pick if you pay attention to that stuff - missed last March's madness with a broken hand suffered in the ACC Championship game against North Carolina. "This hurts to lose, but in our second half, we just didn't play particularly well".