No disrespect to Villanova, but Virginia looks like the best college basketball team in the country right now.
While the top-ranked Wildcats have defeated the Big East's top-tier teams in convincing fashion, there's little opportunity for major statement wins in the same way the No. 2-ranked Cavaliers delivered Saturday by beating No. 4 Duke on the road with a stifling defensive effort.
Coach Tony Bennett's team is now 20-1 overall, owns the nation's No. 1 RPI and is 9-0 in the ACC — a commanding two games ahead of second-place Louisville and three ahead of Duke, Clemson and Miami (Fla.).
The Cavaliers are also four games ahead of North Carolina, which just lost to N.C. State on Saturday — the first time Duke and UNC lost home games on the same day since 1973.
So, it might be a foregone conclusion that UVa is going to win the ACC championship in 2017-18. But Bennett's teams — outside of last year's squad — have been this good before, claiming ACC regular-season titles in 2014 and 2015, and going to the Elite Eight in 2016.
Cutting down the nets in April is much different than cutting them down in March for a conference championship, however. Kansas has won 13 consecutive Big 12 regular-season titles but has been far less successful in reaching the Final Four.
Even if Virginia is the top team in the country now — and continues winning at a rate to claim a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament — the Cavaliers' ceiling in March is not an easy gauge.
Some folks might say Bennett's packline, smothering defense and slow, hot-potato offense make for a boring product.
But it's also a winning product. The real question is whether this team full of talented-but-not-super-talented players can get to San Antonio and win the whole thing?
The single-elimination NCAA tournament has been cruel to favored teams with elite offenses in the past, but a team this good defensively (leading the nation in scoring defense and ranking second in field goal percentage defense) is harder to forecast.
That's mostly because of how Bennett's teams control the tempo — taking an offensively-gifted Duke squad out of rhythm for the entire first half on Saturday.
Getting a batch of under-recruited and chip-on-their-shoulder players to play defense is one feat.
But it's Bennett's tempo-control that allows the Cavaliers to beat teams with far more McDonald's All-Americans on their roster.
Virginia ranks 288th in scoring. And still wins by being efficient and defending with grit.
Against Duke on Saturday, turnovers (forcing 16 and committing just 5) proved to be the difference-maker. It's also indicative of how this team wins by playing tough on defense and smart on offense.
There are no Marvin Bagleys on this team, but the individual ingredients are all there, fueled by a title-winning team chemistry.
Kyle Guy (15.2 ppg) and Ty Jerome (9.5 ppg) provide the three-point marksmanship, and Devon Hall (12.7 ppg) and Isaiah Wilkins (6.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg) add more athleticism and the defensive tenacity this program is known for.
Then factor in upstart freshman De'Andre Hunter and Rutgers transfer Nigel Johnson as key contributors.
Most important, Bennett has size (frontcourt players Jack Salt is 6-10 and Mamadi Diakite is 6-9) and a deep roster (seven guys average more than 6 points a game, which is abundant for Virginia) all of which he can utilize in March.
Can Virginia win it all? Perhaps in a year in which there's no clear favorites, the Cavaliers' throttling defense and not-so-exciting brand of basketball could spell a championship.
At least here in late January, consider UVa the early favorite.