Tony Bennett leads Virginia back to a top seed in NCAA Tournament after historic loss last season

Nothing the Virginia Cavaliers have accomplished so far this season — the 28-2 regular-season record, a fourth ACC regular-season title in six years, a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament — can erase what happened last March.

Tony Bennett’s team entered the 2018 tourney as the No. 1 overall seed with legitimate national championship aspirations. And Virginia will again hold one of the four No. 1 seeds for this year’s tournament (Duke is the overall No. 1), despite losing in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament on Friday. Just like last year, the Cavaliers boast legitimate national championship hopes.

But first they aim to advance further than they did a year ago. Instead of a long tournament run, the 2018 Cavaliers became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16, falling 74-54 to UMBC (University of Maryland-Baltimore County).

“The magnitude of the historic loss that we had, that was very humbling,” Bennett said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast back in October. “It was. You are forced to kind of deal with that and of course, you’re thinking about your seniors, your players. You take stock on everything that happened.”

Despite the shock and disappointment of the loss, Bennett was able to see God at work. “You have to rejoice and give thanks for what God’s doing or how you’re being equipped through the hard situations that we have,” he said.

Bennett’s team earned a No. 1 seed again this year thanks to a defense that leads the country in points allowed per game. Virginia opens against Gardner-Webb on Friday at 3:10 p.m. ET.

Whatever happens this time around, Bennett knows the source of his joy and strength never changes.

“The Lord is more than ample,” Bennett said. “He’s enough. In Him there is all sufficiency. In Him there is great joy and great rest, regardless of what the world is screaming at you through great success or through failure.”

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