Charlottesville, VA - Virginia (20-10) makes its return to the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship as the No. 4 seed in the South Region. The Cavaliers will face Albany (23-9) in a first-round matchup played in Columbus, Ohio at Nationwide Arena on Friday (March 16). The NCAA will announce the specific tip-off time Sunday evening. The winner of the game will meet either No. 5 seed Tennessee or No. 12 seed Long Beach State in the second-round.
The other pod of teams competing in Columbus includes teams from the West Region. Those games are No. 4 Southern Illinois vs. No. 13 Holy Cross and No. 5 Virginia Tech vs. No. 12 Illinois.
Virginia is making its first NCAA appearance since 2001 when the Cavaliers were eliminated by Gonzaga 86-85 in a first-round game played in Memphis, Tenn. This is Virginia's 16th appearance in the NCAA Championships. The Cavaliers' all-time record stands at 21-15. The last time UVa was a No. 4 seed was in 1995 when the Cavaliers reached the regional final, falling to Arkansas 68-61 in Kansas City, Mo.
The game will be the first meeting between Virginia and Albany. It will also mark the first time any Cavalier, except for Pennsylvania transfer Ryan Pettinella, has played in the NCAA Tournament.
"I'm very pleased to be selected as high as a number four (seed). I also know that in this tournament the numbers they place on seeds are going to have a whole lot less to do with one's success than the mindset and what teams will bring to the table," said second year UVa coach Dave Leitao. "It is a great tribute to our players and the season they've had. But at the same time we have to realize that there are a lot of really difficult challenges ahead."
The Great Danes advanced to the NCAA Championships after defeating Vermont 60-59 on the Catamounts' home court in the championship game of the America East tournament. Albany carries a five-game winning streak into its matchup with Virginia. The Great Danes are 13-2 since mid-January and the team's 23 wins this season are the most since the 1993-94 squad went 25-3.
"They are a two-time NCAA participant. Having played and coached in what is now the America East, I know how competitive guys are. I know they are a veteran team," Leitao said. "They've been to the tournament more times than we have, so they are going to come in with a very high air of confidence. I'm sure they are looking at us as a team they know they can beat. Obviously they gave Connecticut a very tough game last year and almost won. We are going to have to make sure in gathering up the information that we need to, that we are prepared for what we will see on the floor and as much as anything, we have to be prepared psychologically to know we are in for a heck of a fight."
Albany is led in scoring by senior guard Jamar Wilson, who averaged 18.6 points per game. At just 6-1, Wilson also topped the team in rebounding with a 6.3 average and led the Great Danes in assists (4.9 per game) and was second with 40 steals. Senior guard/forward Jason Siggers was second on the team in scoring at 13.9 points per outing.
Albany and Virginia had one common opponent this season. The Cavaliers lost to Utah 94-70 at the San Juan Shootout while the Great Danes defeated the Utes 59-58 in Salt Lake City.
"We don't know too much about Albany, but we know they are going to go out there and compete and we have to match that," said Virginia senior guard J.R. Reynolds. "It's a new season. It's a whole new ball game. I'm just looking forward to playing, especially at this time of year. We get to play for something big. That's special."