CHICAGO -- There was dissent in the ranks.
Not on the floor, or in a huddle, or on the bench. Behind the bench, in fact, where a few scattered Iowa State fans sat in literal contrast to thousands of their comrades -- who were standing, trying to will a rally into their team.
Near the seated, a fan waved his arms and screamed, "Stand up! Let's go!" A middle-aged couple to his left, hesitant at first, eventually heeded the call, and the ISU roar peaked ... just in time for the Virginia Cavaliers to pour in yet another bucket, and stretch yet another double-digit lead.
Then, everyone sat down.
It wasn't even halftime. That's how good, how comprehensively dominant, the No. 1-seeded Cavaliers were in Friday's 84-71 Midwest Regional semifinal victory over No. 4 seed Iowa State. They left a Cyclones fan base that had painted the United Center cardinal and gold embracing just a tiny glimmer of hope.
For a team all too often sold as a defensive specialty, Friday's NCAA tournament win was a showcase of chops on both ends of the floor. In the first half, Virginia -- one of the nation's most efficient offensive teams this season -- made seven of its first nine field goals and finished 17-of-28 from the field. In the second, when they finally cooled off, the Cavaliers could lean again on that vaunted defense, snuffing out every minor ISU push.
Tony Bennett's team was so good it didn't need a star turn from ACC player of the year Malcolm Brogdon, who was uncharacteristically uneconomical (4-of-13 shooting, 12 points). Bennett's team was so good that the volume of the crowd obscured a ruthless fact: The Cyclones were never really in the game. Their fans didn't care. Time and again, they would latch onto the faintest promise of a turnaround. Each time, they would stand. And each time, Anthony Gill or Mike Tobey or London Perrantes would get a good shot, or a key rebound, or a key stop, or all three. Each time, the Elite Eight-bound Cavaliers would make the decision easy, the directive clear.