The Virginia men's basketball team is back in the national rankings for the first time since the second week of the season.
Thanks to an 8-1 start in ACC play -- the program's best since the 1981-82 season -- that includes road wins at Notre Dame and Pittsburgh last week, the Cavaliers cracked both major college basketball polls this week. UVa is ranked 20th in this week's Associated Press poll, and No. 21 in the latest coaches poll.
"Joe [Harris] and Akil [Mitchell] have done a real good job of holding guys accountable, demanding some excellence," head coach Tony Bennett says of his team's success in the first month of ACC play.
"I think guys have done a great job of knowing who they are and not trying to get too far outside of that, and that's been our strength with our balance and our depth," he added.
UVa is 17-5 overall on the season, entering Wednesday's game at home against Boston College. Those spots mark the team's highest national rankings in each poll this season.
UVa began the season ranked No. 24 in the AP poll and No. 25 in the coaches poll, then fell to 25th in both polls the following week. A 59-56 loss at home to Virginia Commonwealth on November 12 knocked the Cavaliers out of both polls.
Since losing by 35 points on the road at Tennessee on Dec. 30, the 'Hoos have won eight of nine games and are outscoring opponents by more than 14 points-per-game, the highest margin in the ACC.
"After the Tennessee loss, it looked like we might be 1-8 or 0-9," Bennett said. "Quite honestly it became more about, 'alright let's forget about everything but getting back to what's going to give us a chance to be competitive first, not successful.' That's just how you eek your way back toward playing the kind of basketball that you need."
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