After advancing to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1995, the top-seeded Virginia men's basketball team is preparing to meet the No. 4 seed, Michigan State, in the East Region semifinals on Friday at Madison Square Garden.
UVa advanced after a dominating performance in its win over Memphis on Sunday night in Raleigh. With thousands of Virginian fans in the crowd, the Cavaliers celebrated their first Sweet 16 berth in nearly two decades.
"We want to try to just continue to ride that wave, and hopefully they can travel with us to New York and pack the buses and pack the planes and continue to be that support group for us," sophomore guard Justin Anderson said of the crowd support. "They've been huge. They're the true sixth man."
While the 'Hoos have plenty of support from their fans, there aren't a lot of people outside the fan base that believe UVa can take down the Spartans. Michigan State has been a popular pick by college basketball analysts to win the tournament since the bracket was released, but the 'Hoos aren't getting too wrapped up in predictions.
"I don't think any of us are worried about proving anybody wrong or anything like that," said senior guard Joe Harris. "We're just excited about another opportunity to play, another opportunity to keep this journey alive and play against a very good Michigan State team. We have a week to prepare, and we're excited to get back at it."
"You get to the Sweet 16, that's the rarefied air of college basketball," said head coach Tony Bennett. "We know who's waiting, we know how good they are, and it'll be us trying to test our game against one of the teams that's playing their best basketball right now."
The Cavaliers also head into the matchup after playing some of their best basketball in their win over Memphis. UVa shot 56-percent from the floor against the Tigers and won the battle on the boards, 40-28.
"If they know about us, they know we play up to opponents," freshman guard London Perrantes said of Michigan State. "We play defense. If we play our game it'll be deadly. I don't think it'll send a message to them. If they know how we played all season, they'll be ready regardless."