No. 1 Virginia hosts surging Notre Dame

After top-ranked Virginia wrapped up the ACC regular-season title last weekend with a dominating win over Pittsburgh, it seemed the regular-season drama was over.

It wasn't.

The Cavaliers rallied from a 13-point, second-half deficit Thursday night in Louisville and capped off a dramatic 67-66 win with De'Andre Hunter's buzzer-beating 3-pointer that banked in.

Saturday, the final day of the conference's regular season, brings even more theater as Virginia (27-2, 16-1 in the ACC) will host a desperate Notre Dame (18-12, 8-9) squad. Bonzie Colson will play his second game in a row for the Irish after missing much of the season because of a fractured foot, and it is also the Cavaliers' senior day.

"They started out as role players," Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said of his seniors, "and just kind of every step they got better, earned more and more (playing time). They are so bought-in. They're owners in this house, and it matters so much to them. And they hold guys accountable, and they encourage (their teammates). I couldn't ask for better leaders, and I'm so glad to see how it's gone for them."

Those seniors to be honored are guards Devon Hall and Nigel Johnson (a graduate transfer from Rutgers) and forward Isaiah Wilkins -- all of whom have had significant roles in Virginia's historic run this season.

While Virginia has solidified its NCAA Tournament berth and likely will have the No. 1 overall seed in that event, Notre Dame still has a lot of work to do to get to the NCAA Tournament.

But the Irish are on the rise. They have won two games in a row and three of their last four to give themselves a chance of finishing at 9-9 in the conference. The improvement comes after a seven-game losing streak earlier in the season as Notre Dame has played without Colson, the preseason ACC player of the year, for the much of the season.

"We're 8-9 in this league," Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said. "I'm proud of this group and what they have done. Saturday we have an unbelievable opportunity against a great team. Having him (Colson) back adds so much confidence and energy. Those guys missed him, they missed his edge and confidence."

After missing 15 games following surgery to repair a broken foot, Colson made his triumphant return on Wednesday night against Pittsburgh, scoring 12 points and pulling down nine rebounds in 21 minutes of a 73-56 victory.

"I just wanted to play my game, to play with passion and to stay in character," Colson said.

Notre Dame is currently listed among the "Next Four Out" for the NCAA Tournament, according to ESPN's Joe Lunardi, and will need to pull off an upset at John Paul Jones Arena to bolster their chances.

That is easier said than done against a Virginia team that became the first ACC team ever to record a 9-0 road record in conference play with their last-second win over Louisville. The Cavaliers have lost only once at home this season, and with a win Saturday, they would become the first ACC team in history to win 17 conference games.

"We've got some warriors on our team," said Hall, who totaled 10 points, nine rebounds four assists and one steal against Louisville, "It shows our toughness to be able to fight back like that and be able to finish down the stretch."