Akil Mitchell was asked Monday afternoon whether staying humble would be a problem for the Virginia basketball team, following Sunday's announcement that the Cavaliers had earned a No. 1 seed in this year's NCAA Tournament.
"You don't know Coach Bennett," the senior forward replied with a wide smile.
UVa received the top seed in the East Region after completing a 3-0 weekend at the ACC Tournament by defeating Duke in Sunday's title game. The 28-6 Cavaliers face 16-seed Coastal Carolina at 9:25 p.m. Friday in the NCAA Tournament opener for both teams.
On Monday, the Cavaliers admitted they were still processing the news of their rise to national prominence.
"It is pretty crazy," said senior guard Joe Harris. "I was sitting there yesterday, when we were watching the selection show, and we got the No. 1 seed, and I was like, "This is crazy. I would never have ever expected anything like this to happen." But it's rewarding. It's awesome to see that, and to see that the program has gotten to that level."
"I mean, it's cool. It's cool to see your school in prime time, honestly," said Mitchell. "It's nice to look at and to think about. But at the end of the day, how much are they going to be talking about us if we lose?"
"So we have to stay grounded. We have to stay humble," Mitchell added. "And I think every guy in this locker room is. We're ready to get back to work."
And as Mitchell pointed out, the Cavaliers' sense of humility starts with their head coach. On Monday, Tony Bennett looked back at how his team handled itself in Greensboro.
"The intensity with which the Virginia fans cheered, and the excitement for how bad they wanted this, just starving for another one of those. It was like our guys were mini-rock stars, in a way," Bennett said. "And before the game, I said, "Listen. No one can stay on a pedestal. Stay faithful to what got you here. Those things of humility and hunger, and being as ready as you can." Because that's been their formula for success."
"You're asking about humility, that's one of our pillars," said Mitchell. "That's what we hang our hat on; it's necessary for us to be successful. And between me, Joe, and obviously Coach Bennett will keep us all grounded. But I think it's our job as leaders to keep us all grounded as well."
"We're honored to receive the No. 1 seed. But at the same time, all of these teams that are in the tournament are capable of upsetting anybody," said Harris. "And a 16 has never beaten a 1. But that doesn't mean that they haven't been able to compete with a 1."
Monday was an off day for the Cavaliers. They'll return to the practice court on Tuesday -- with their focus single-minded, according to sophomore guard Malcolm Brogdon.
"Taking it in stride," Brogdon said of the team's approach. "Working every day in practice. Not really trying to worry about even the next game. Worrying about the next practice; worrying about getting better today. And everybody staying consistent with their roles on the team. I think as long as we can, everybody play their role on the team, and play it to the best of their ability, I think we'll be okay."