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As the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament begins this week, the coach of the number one seed, the University of Virginia, says biblical principles have played a major role in getting them to this point.

They are headed to the NCAA as the number one seed for the third time in the last five years under UVA Cavaliers men’s head basketball coach, Tony Bennett. He shared that faith plays a major role in how he coaches:

“My faith – that defines me. That’s what gives me my meaning and purpose and how I try to treat people with my life,” Bennett said. “I make so many mistakes. The fact that I know I’m forgiven is probably the greatest joy that I have, but that is significant. That is the bedrock of my life and therefore the foundation of why I coach and how I coach, how I try to treat people and my perspective on the whole thing.”

According to CBN News, Bennett uses five biblically-based pillars to teach his players lessons that will be of help to them both on and off the basketball court. They are life lessons and are very specific to basketball in ways you wouldn’t think, Bennett said.

These include humility, passion, unity, servanthood and thankfulness.

“I really am thankful that we have a program that is building things of value that are basketball-oriented but life-oriented and family-oriented and career-oriented,” he continued.

Another big factor that has played a role in their success? They are taught character before anything else, Roger Cheeks, the athletic director at Regent University told CBN News.

“If you are willing to work with athletes and enhance their character, then wins will come,” Cheeks said.

Cheeks also shared that Bennett is using his platform to share a message about the about the body of Christ.

“It is interesting being a Christina and understanding the body of Christ. Everybody on the team may not have the same level of experience, but when you put them together something happens,” he said. “No matter what the sport is, the mindset will be to honor the weakest player, more than the strongest player.”

He believes Bennett teaches the biblical message of honor in addition to the five biblical principles previously listed.

“[Honor] is what gives Tony a great motivational platform for his players. He treats each player as if they are the number one player,” Cheeks said. “The Bible tells us we celebrate the weakest in the body rather than the strongest in the body.”

The Cavaliers beat the North Carolina Tarheels, 71-63, in the ACC championship and will be challenging the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) in the first round of the NCAA tournament. However, team is not resting on its successes alone.

“Everybody’s capable in this tournament. That’s just how it is,” Bennett told the Washington Post. “To get a one seed is, I guess, a reward for a heck of a regular season and then postseason games in the conference tournament, but then you get your seeding, and then it starts over.”

The UVA Cavaliers will play their first March Madness game on Sunday against the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

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