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How Virginia can earn itself an NCAA Tournament at-large bid

tony bennett
Tony Bennett. Photo by Dan Grogan.

Virginia has rebounded a bit from the dispiriting opening-game loss at home to Navy, sitting at this writing at 11-7 overall and 5-3 in the ACC, a game and a half out of first place.

If the season were to end today, though, there would be almost no chance that the ‘Hoos would hear their name called on Selection Sunday.

Virginia sits at 92 in the NET, 81 in KPI, 62 in Sagarin and 69 in the ESPN Basketball Power Index.

The best win for Virginia is a good one, actually, the 58-40 win over Providence (14-2, NET: 32) back in November.

The worst loss actually isn’t Navy (11-6, NET: 128), but rather, the road loss at JMU (9-4, NET: 173) in December.

Or, another way of looking at the worst loss concept, man, the loss in JPJ to Iowa (13-5, NET: 25) in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge will sting if the Cavaliers end up in the NIT.

Virginia, you may remember, had the last shot, but the short jumper from Kadin Shedrick was blocked at the buzzer.

That one would have been a key Q1 win.

Where things stand now

At this writing, UVA has a 1-3 record in Q1 games, is 3-1 in Q2, 1-3 in Q3 and 6-0 in Q4, with a strength of schedule at 93, a non-conference strength of schedule at 162 and a 3-3 road record.

Thing is, there aren’t going to be a lot of opportunities for Q1 or Q2 wins coming up because of the surprising weakness of the ACC this season.

The home-and-home with Duke (14-3, NET: 12) gives us two guaranteed Q1 games.

Additional Q1 opportunities: maybe at Notre Dame on Jan. 29 (10-6, NET: 80), but that one wouldn’t be a Q1 right now, because road games only count if the opponent is ranked in the NET top 75.

At Virginia Tech on Feb. 14 (10-7, NET: 41) and at Miami (14-4, NET: 66) are certainties, as is at Florida State (12-5, NET: 57).

The only game in JPJ that will count for Q1 is the Duke game.

Somehow, Miami is atop the ACC, has a road win at Duke, and is nowhere near the top 25.

The ‘Canes are 1-2 in Q1, 4-1 in Q2, 5-1 in Q3 and 4-0 in W4, with an SOS at 52, an NCSOS at 156 and a 3-1 road record. Their worst loss is Central Florida (11-5, NET: 78).

Virginia Tech coach Mike Young has something figured out. The Hokies are 25 spots ahead of Miami and 51 spots ahead of Virginia without a Q1 win (0-3), and a 4-3 record in Q2, 1-1 in Q3 and 5-0 in Q4, an SOS at 89, an NCSOS at 172, and a 3-3 road record.

Tech’s worst loss: NC State (9-10, NET: 121).

Same strength of schedule, same road record as Virginia, somehow 51 spots better in NET.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Back to Virginia: so, we’ve identified up to six possible Q1 games. I see two or three more possible Q2s: the road game at Notre Dame, if that doesn’t end up being a Q1, the Feb. 5 home game with Miami, and the March 5 road game at Louisville (11-7, NET: 109).

Which leaves three games that can only hurt us: Jan. 24 at home vs. Louisville, Feb. 1 at home vs. Boston College (7-9, NET: 172), and Feb. 12 at home vs. Georgia Tech (7-10, NET: 177).

How this can happen

It’s a perilous road that Tony Bennett & Co. needs to travel between now and Selection Sunday. Going to need to steal at least three of the Q1 games, take two of three of the Q2, and otherwise not have any hiccups.

That would leave Virginia at 19-11, 13-7 in the ACC, heading into Brooklyn. Win one there, lose on Thursday, and a long weekend could end with a First Four game the next Tuesday or Wednesday.

As you can see, not a lot of margin for error.

Story by Chris Graham

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