It didn't take senior forward Akil Mitchell long to put the Virginia basketball team's struggles at the ACC Tournament in perspective.
"No, I haven't heard that stat," Mitchell said with a chuckle when a reporter brought up the program's 19-year streak since its last appearance in the ACC semifinals.
"That's a long time," said Mitchell. "That's older than our freshman, for sure."
The UVa program has only won four ACC Tournament games since the 1995 team's semifinal appearance, with all of those wins coming in the first round of the bracket. The Cavaliers are winless in their last 13 quarterfinal appearances.
This year's team will head to Greensboro as the No. 1 seed in the tournament, after finishing the regular season 16-2 in ACC play -- two games better than second-place Syracuse. The Cavaliers will face the winner of Thursday's Florida State/Maryland game in Friday's quarterfinals.
"What do you do differently? Hopefully we're a better team; we're more balanced. We'll be ready," said UVa coach Tony Bennett, who is 1-4 all-time in ACC Tournament games.
"You're not going to change who you are, but you really want to play well in this, and advance," Bennett said. "That's kind of a challenge that's in front of us, that we haven't gone on in this."
"I think it would be a huge step for our program," said senior guard Joe Harris. "I was talking earlier about how I thought that the teams like Duke and Carolina. It seems like they always take, they always step up a notch when it comes to the ACC Tournament, and just postseason play in general."
"And I think that would be a big step for this program."
Mitchell and Harris have never won an ACC Tournament game. The past two years, the Cavaliers have earned first-round byes, only to lose to N.C. State in the quarterfinals.
"But this is a special team, and a different year," said Mitchell. "I'm not saying that, "Oh, 19 years. We have to win this," or anything like that. But I feel like every guy in this locker room feels like, or is confident that when we're playing good basketball, and we're doing what we do best, we're a hard team to beat."
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