Virginia basketball fans: Sit back and enjoy the ride
Last spring, the UVA baseball team was thisclose to not getting an NCAA Tournament bid. I wrote that the team didn’t deserve a bid, and still stand by that, and if Virginia doesn’t sweep UNC the final weekend of the regular season, they don’t get it, and even then, well, the selection committee was generous.
Then we looked at the Lake Elsinore Regional bracket. Wow, that looks favorable, some of us said. (I said this on a podcast, anyway.)
The rest is history. The Virginia baseball team that didn’t deserve a bid had a nice draw, won its regional, caught a break when Maryland upset UCLA giving UVA a Super Regional in Charlottesville, then just straight up beat a loaded field in Omaha, no breaks necessary, because the Cavs were the best team in the College World Series, and a deserving champ.
Which gets us to March Madness. These Cavs are not those Cavs, in one way of speaking. Those Cavs barely got into the tournament; these Cavs are a #1 seed, not that you’d know it, from a look at social media and the message boards.
But no, getting the #1 in the Midwest, with Michigan State as the two, Purdue as the five, is not a screwjob, in any way, shape or form.
Look at this bracket. Look favorable to me. (At the risk of jinxing it.)
Hampton isn’t Coastal Carolina as a 16. I remember researching Coastal two years ago, and wondering what we’d done wrong to get them in the opener.
Nothing against Hampton, but that’s a good matchup.
Second round: Texas Tech or Butler. Again, no disrespect to either, but look at the other 8-9s feeding into 1s for the second round: Carolina could get Providence, a team ranked in the Top 10 not that long ago, Kansas could get UConn, Oregon could get St. Joe’s (RPI 20).
Texas Tech and Butler both lost their conference tourney openers. Butler’s RPI is 54.
Third round: OK, Virginia could get Purdue at home. UNC could get SEC champ Kentucky or Big 10 regular-season champ Indiana. Kansas could get Maryland, ranked as high as #2 nationally last month, or Cal, with two projected Top 5 NBA Draft picks. Oregon may have defending national champ Duke in its path.
The point: nobody has it easy, and I honestly think, and these could be famous last words, but whatever, that Virginia’s draw is the one that I’d ask for among the group of #1 seeds.
And that’s with Michigan State being our #2.
Sparty is the popular pick to win the Midwest, for obvious reasons. They own Virginia, got it, bookmarked.
But what about MSU’s road to a possible Elite Eight matchup? The second round is either Syracuse, with that 2-3 zone and a million three-point hoists a game, or Dayton, a seven seed with a 21 RPI, underseeded like the #7 seed in Virginia’s bracket last year.
The Sweet 16 is either three seed Utah (9 RPI), six seed Seton Hall (22 RPI) or this little school from the Northwest by the name of Gonzaga that you might have heard of.
To reiterate, life is hard for everybody on the Road to the Final Four.
It’s not just Virginia that can expect some bumps along the way.
The lesson from Virginia baseball: the seeding really doesn’t matter.
Admit it, you’d never heard of Lake Elsinore before last spring. It’s OK; none of us had, and I had to look it up before writing this column, because I’d already forgotten.
Who were the top seeds out there? (It doesn’t matter who the top seeds were out there.)
Who were the national seeds in the 2015 NCAA Baseball Tournament? (It doesn’t doesn’t matter who the top seeds were in the 2015 NCAA Baseball Tournament.)
Once they toss the first ball in the air this week, everybody is 0-0.
Folks like to say that you have to win six games to win a national championship, but that isn’t true.
You just have to win the game you’re playing.
The UVA baseball team did that better than anybody last June, and brought home a big, pretty trophy for its output.
This Virginia basketball bunch seems as well-equipped as anybody to bring home another one before it’s done.
Enjoy the ride.
– Column by Chris Graham