Opposing coaches continue to praise UVA

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Jim Boeheim knows what a national title contender looks like. He's been to the Final Four five times as men's basketball coach at Syracuse, and won a national championship with the Orange in 2003.

This week, Boeheim became the latest ACC coach to declare No. 2 Virginia a legitimate NCAA title contender after losing to the Cavaliers.

"I think they're a great team," Boeheim said following UVA's 79-53 win at Syracuse on Monday. "I think they have a really, a great chance to be a national championship-type team."

UVA improved to 27-2 overall, and moved within a win of the top seed in the ACC Tournament at 15-2 in the league, with that victory in the Carrier Dome. The Cavaliers' three most recent wins -- over Georgia Tech, Pitt and the Orange -- have come by an average of 27 points.

Following his team's 81-51 loss at John Paul Jones Arena last Wednesday, Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner declared that if UVA "played like they did tonight, they'll win the national championship." Three days later, Pitt coach Jeff Capel told the Panthers that they just saw "what elite looks like" following his team's 73-49 loss at UVA.

On Monday night at Syracuse, UVA matched a school record with 18 3-pointers, and shot 72 percent as a team from beyond the arc. Kyle Guy finished with 25 points on 8-of-10 shooting, all from beyond the 3-point line. De'Andre Hunter was 5-for-7 from beyond the line and finished with 21 points; Ty Jerome had 16 points, and shot 5-of-6 on 3-pointers. Defensively, the Wahoos limited Syracuse to just 19 points in the second half.

"I think it's the best team I've seen at Virginia," Boeheim said afterward. "By a lot, in my mind, because of the experience the guards have now. They were freshmen and sophomores the last two years. Hunter has a year under him. I think he's a lottery pick."

"They shot terribly in the two games they lost, and they're not going to do that too many times," Boeheim added.

UVA has been the top seed in the ACC Tournament in three of the previous five seasons, and won the tournament from that No. 1 spot in 2014 and again last year. Since the Wahoos hold the tie-breaker over North Carolina, they can clinch that top seed again by beating Louisville at JPJ in Saturday's regular season finale.

UVA's postseason resume in nine seasons under Tony Bennett isn't as impressive in NCAA Tournament play. The Cavaliers have been to the Sweet 16 twice and Elite Eight once under Bennett -- in 2016, when they let a second-half lead get away against Boeheim's Syracuse team. UVA also famously lost to No. 16 seed UMBC in last year's first round, when the Wahoos were the top overall seed in the NCAA field.

A humble Bennett downplayed Boeheim's remarks about this year's UVA team when they were brough to the coach's attention following Monday's win.

"I hope he's right," Bennett said with a smile. "I've been blessed with some really good teams. So I think Joe Harris and Malcolm Brogdon and Justin Anderson and those guys might take offense. No, but I've had some really good teams."

"This team has versatility, and the way they played in that second half, that's about as good as a team that we've had play, in this setting, against one of coach's teams," Bennett said. "So understandably so that he said that, and I like this team."

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