In the same arena where Virginia's postseason ended last season, the Cavaliers' 2019 postseason will begin on Thursday afternoon.
No. 1 seed Virginia will look to defend its ACC tournament title this weekend as it opens play against eighth-seeded North Carolina State, who edged No. 9 seed Clemson on Wednesday.
"You're now going into a different kind of tournament which is a one-and-done," Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said on Tuesday. "It's the same in the NCAA Tournament. Just being as ready as we can and we've tried to grow as much as we can."
Virginia (28-2), ranked No. 2 in the nation, has won eight games in a row and capped off another 16-win ACC regular season slate and has now won 33 conference games over the past two seasons.
North Carolina State (22-10) kept its NCAA Tournament hopes alive with a one-point comeback win over Clemson in Wednesday's second round. The Wolfpack trailed by 16 points at halftime, but overcame the deficit and posted the second-largest comeback in tournament history, winning 59-58.
"It was about how much heart and desire and effort you would put into it," Wolfpack head coach Kevin Keatts said after the game. "I told them, I said: 'If you played extremely hard, we'll come out with a win.' And these guys were special."
Guard Markell Johnson knocked down two free throws with less than three seconds to play to propel the Wolfpack as he scored a game-high 23 points and was the only North Carolina State player in double figures.
The Cavaliers haven't played since their 73-68 win at home against Louisville in Saturday's regular-season finale. Virginia beat the Wolfpack in Raleigh in the teams' lone meeting this season, but not without some struggles.
The one-point overtime win was Virginia's toughest triumph of the season as they needed Kyle Guy's lone 3-pointer of the game with two minutes left in overtime to put them ahead for good.
"We'll live and learn," Bennett said after the win back in January. "We're fortunate to get out of here."
Virginia has won seven straight games against North Carolina State and has limited the Wolfpack to 55 or fewer points in six of those seven wins.
North Carolina State averages 81 points per game on the season, but has scored 73 or fewer in each of its last four games - but is 2-2 in those games. The Wolfpack have shown signs of better defense, which will have to continue against a Virginia team that has connected on 30 3-pointers in its last two games.
"I think this team is built for that," Keatts said about his team's comeback against Clemson. "I don't want to be in that position all of the time thought."
Another early start on Thursday (12:30 p.m. local) may bode well for the Wolfpack, who will already have a game under their belt and may have a bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line. The top-seeded Cavaliers are currently projected to be the top seed in the tournament, and will be looking to extend their ACC tournament win streak to four games.
--Field Level Media