Commentary

Cavaliers' attitude: Team basketball

Commitment to unselfish basketball has Virginia in ACC title hunt

Updated: February 28, 2014, 9:40 AM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

Joe HarrisGeoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsSenior guard Joe Harris is among the leaders of a balanced offensive attack that has Virginia on top of the ACC standings.

When I talk to fans about the ACC, all I hear is Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina. Obviously those schools are having very good seasons.

People, let's give some love and credit to what is happening at Virginia. The Cavaliers enter this weekend's showdown against the Orange looking down on everyone else in the standings.

Virginia has done it with no big names. It plays together as a unified team on both ends of the court. It shares the basketball, plays unselfishly and has a winner's mentality.

Coach Tony Bennett has a tough defensive squad and learned so much from his father, former Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett. Tony played for his dad at Wisconsin-Green Bay, and he was so scrappy.

The Cavaliers have been absolutely brilliant at 15-1 in the ACC and 24-5 overall, riding a 12-game win streak after Wednesday's win over Miami. The lone conference loss came on Jan. 13 in a four-point loss at Duke, as Rasheed Sulaimon hit a pivotal 3-pointer with 18.8 seconds left to lift the Blue Devils.

A victory on Saturday would give Virginia its first outright ACC regular-season title since 1981, when a guy named Ralph Sampson patrolled the lane in Charlottesville. I am so excited to be calling the game there this weekend; I have not been there in years, and I have never called a game at John Paul Jones Arena.

The Cavaliers lineup has a group of kids that plays so hard. Joe Harris, Malcolm Brogdon, London Perrantes and Akil Mitchell are not household names to the average college hoops fan, but they can flat-out play. This group of athletes has versatility, and they are all capable of scoring. They have great balance.

Perrantes is a great distributor of the rock. Mitchell, Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey contribute up front, while Harris is the lone returning member of last year's all-ACC first team.

This is a tenacious team that has taken advantage of the ACC's unbalanced schedule. It helps that Virginia plays Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina just once each. The Cavaliers have done everything asked of them in the league, including a sweep of Notre Dame. The second win over the Irish included a 25-0 scoring run.

This has been a special run for Virginia. This is the third straight season with 20-plus wins, a feat last accomplished from 1990-91 to 1992-93. For the third consecutive season, the Cavaliers are holding opponents under 60 points per game. You give yourself a great chance to win when you hold opponents in check like that.

For a team that scored 38 points against Wisconsin in early December and lost to Tennessee by 35 in late December, Virginia has come a long way!

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.

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