Getting big home wins in January against
Beating No. 3 Duke (24-3 overall, 11-3 ACC) on Thursday night in
"I think we do," said U.Va. guard Jontel Evans, a Bethel High graduate, when asked Sunday if he thought the Cavaliers needed another impressive win to establish themselves as a legitimate contender to reach the NCAA tournament. "Thursday would be a great one to have to end the season."
U.Va. (19-8, 9-5), which as of Wednesday evening was 71st in Ratings Percentage Index projections, missed recent opportunities on the road to notch what would've been critical victories. On Feb. 16, U.Va. lost 93-81 at UNC, which is 23rd in RPI. On Feb. 19, U.Va. came up short 54-50 against then-No. 2
Why would a win against Duke represent a potential Holy Grail for U.Va.'s NCAA tournament hopes? Duke is first in RPI.
U.Va.'s best wins came in John Paul Jones Arena against UNC and N.C. State, which is 24th in RPI. When compared against a sampling of 15 other programs from major conferences that are considered NCAA tournament "bubble teams," U.Va.'s most impressive victories aren't as compelling as 11 of the other teams' best wins.
In the ACC, UNC has a home win against Nevada-Las Vegas (16th in RPI).
The most attractive wins for
Tennessee (53rd in RPI) and
Of course, all those numbers don't even factor in bubble teams from mid-major conferences that have eye-catching victories.
A win against Duke by U.Va. would trump all of those big wins by teams from other conferences. Duke is rolling as it enters John Paul Jones Arena, where U.Va. is 16-1 this season and has won an arena-record 15 consecutive games.
"They're just a good basketball team," said Duke coach
Despite missing starting forward Ryan Kelly due to a right foot injury for the last 12 games, Duke has won eight of its last nine games. Forward