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Don’t dismiss Virginia’s NCAA tournament hopes just yet

Feb 10, 2013, 4:37 PM EDT

Joe Harris, Justin Anderson AP

One week after suffering a bad loss at Georgia Tech, Virginia could not afford to lose at Maryland if they were to keep alive their hopes of returning to the NCAA tournament.

And thanks to their shooting from beyond the arc the Cavaliers picked up the result they needed, shooting 11-of-19 from three in an 80-69 win over the Terrapins. Paul Jesperson hit all four of his three-point attempts and Joe Harris hit three on his way to scoring a game-high 22 points to lead Virginia (17-6, 7-3), which is now in sole possession of third place in the ACC.

Shorthanded in the front court due to injuries suffered by Darion Atkins and Mike Tobey, Virginia needs to produce even more from the perimeter in order to be successful. And in their last two games, the first of which being a 78-41 whipping of Clemson, the Cavaliers have done just that.

But there are concerns for Virginia due to the front court issues. Even though they out-rebounded Maryland 34-29 (Justin Anderson grabbed nine rebounds in addition to scoring 17 points) the Cavaliers gave up 18 second-chance points and were outscored 42-20 in the paint.

With Tobey out indefinitely with mononucleosis and Atkins dealing with a stress reaction in his shin, there’s a chance that this is the group Tony Bennett has to finish out a large portion of Virginia’s remaining regular season slate with. So when it comes to their work on the boards it will have to be “all hands on deck” for the Cavaliers.

Over their last two games Virginia’s shot 21-of-43 from beyond the arc, hitting the bonus shot at a higher clip than their 39.6% rate in ACC play, and with games against North Carolina (who they’ve already beaten once), No. 8 Miami and No. 4 Duke remaining on the schedule the Cavaliers will need to hit perimeter shots at a comparable rate.

There’s no arguing the fact that Virginia’s resume will make things difficult (no shortage of either good wins or bad losses) on the selection committee when the time comes, provided they don’t collapse down the stretch.

But they’ve got a shot, and that’s something few were willing to allow them a week ago.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej

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