The Virginia Cavaliers have an incredible history and tradition in the NCAA Tournament. The Cavaliers have been playing basketball since 1905, but much of the team’s success in the Big Dance has come in the last 3 decades. Virginia made their first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 1976, but it was in their 2nd trip to the Big Dance that Virginia really cemented itself as a power basketball program. The Cavaliers returned to the NCAA Tournament in 1981, and behind Ralph Sampson’s brilliant play, advanced all the way to the Final 4. The Cavaliers won their first NCAA Tournament game, reached their first Sweet 16, first Elite 8 and first Final 4 all in the same tournament.
The early 1980’s continued to be an incredibly successful period for the Cavaliers, with the team returning to the Sweet 16 a year later in 1982. Ralph Sampson’s final year in Charlottesville came a year later and once again the legendary center led the Cavaliers on a deep run into March. Virginia earned a number 1 seed in the tournament and defeated Washington State and Boston College on their way to the Elite 8. Following Sampson’s departure a year later, Virginia was expected to struggle in the NCAA Tournament, but the Cavaliers put in one of the most memorable runs in school history. The team won their first two games by a combined 3 points, including a 2 point overtime upset of the #2 seed Arkansas Razorbacks. Virginia then went on to defeat Syracuse and Indiana on their way to the Final 4. The Cavaliers would lose a heartbreaking 2 point overtime game to Houston in the Final 4, in what ended the teams National Championship hopes.
The success in the early 1980’s for Virginia rolled through the rest of the decade and throughout the 1990’s. During that period Virginia reached the NCAA Tournament 9 times following the trip to the Final 4 in 1984, including trips to the Elite 8 in 1989 and 1995. The hiring of coach Tony Bennett in 2009 ushered in a rebirth of success for Virginia basketball. The team reached the NCAA Tournament in only his 3rd season of coaching.
Virginia Cavaliers Recent NCAA Tourament History
Virginia most recently reached the NCAA Tournament in 2014, when the Cavaliers secured a number 1 seed in the tournament. Virginia came into the tournament following ACC regular season and conference tournament titles and were one of the hottest teams in the country. Virginia rode this success to NCAA Tournament wins over Coastal Carolina, and Memphis in route to their first trip to the Sweet 16 since 1995.