Williford, Wahoos prepare for Gardner-Webb

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- For Jason Williford and the rest of the Virginia men's basketball coaching staff, the work began basically as soon as the NCAA Tournament bracket was released on Sunday evening.

"It's hectic. It's a lot going on," said Williford, the Cavaliers' associate head coach. "You're trying to get film and break down opponents, and find out as much as you can about teams."

The 29-3 Wahoos are the No. 1 seed in the South Region of this year's bracket. So preparation has been concentrated on Friday's first-round opponent -- No. 16 seed Gardner-Webb.

The Runnin' Bulldogs clinched the program's first-ever NCAA berth by beating Radford in the Big South title game. Gardner-Webb also went 2-1 against ACC opponents during the regular season, losing to Virginia Tech before beating both Georgia Tech and Wake Forest.

"They're a good team," Williford said. "They're small, so they're going to present a problem in that regard. They play pretty much four guards, at times it's five guards."

For UVA, this is the fourth time in the last six seasons and the seventh time in school history that they'll enter the bracket as a No. 1 seed. A year ago, UVA was the top overall seed in the tournament -- then made NCAA history by losing to No. 16 seed UMBC in the opening round.

The Cavaliers have endured a season of reminders about that loss. Williford says the Wahoos are prepared for one more round of questions about UMBC when the face the media on Thursday in Columbia, SC.

"It's who we are now. It's our history. It's going to always be a part of the Virginia basketball history and theme. And we've got to deal with that," Williford said. "Don't run from it. It won't be the elephant in the room. And I think the guys are ready to handle that. But it is. It's real, it's a reality and we've got to go through it."

That loss is just a small part of the history that Williford has been a part of at UVA. As a player, he was a member of the 1995 UVA team that reached the Elite Eight, the 1993 Sweet 16 team and the 1992 NIT champion. He's been on staff for all 10 of Tony Bennett's seasons, which include four ACC regular-season titles, two conference tournament championships, an Elite Eight in 2016 and a Sweet 16 in 2014.

So Williford admits that he can't help but be proud of what the Wahoos have accomplished.

"To see this program where it is, I want to stay as humble as I can. That's one of our pillars, I want to show that humility. But there's a lot of pride that I have," Williford said. "And we've worked toward this, and I think the guys should appreciate what they've done. Live in the moment, and be ready to go out and show people who we are."



 
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