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Virginia left at home to play in NIT
The Cavaliers' struggles on the road and their 0-3 record against the CAA counted against them.
Virginia coach Tony Bennett challenged his team to "be the best NIT team we can be."
Virginia's Teven Jones (center) shoots over North Carolina State's Lorenzo Brown (right) and C.J. Leslie (left) in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Friday. Virginia's loss to the Wolfpack may have hurt them in the eyes of the NCAA tournament selection committee.
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Virginia’s inability to get to New York in the preseason NIT ultimately may have cost the Cavaliers in their push for an NCAA Tournament bid.
The Cavaliers hope to make amends following their selection Sunday night as one of four No. 1 seeds for the postseason NIT.
Virginia (21-11) will play host to Norfolk State (21-11) at 9 p.m. Tuesday at John Paul Jones and could have as many as three home games if it can keep winning.
The Cavaliers had held out hopes of a second consecutive NCAA bid until the pairings were announced Sunday night. UVa has not played in the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons since 1994-95.
UVa coach Tony Bennett put his team through a practice Sunday afternoon before the team convened to watch the selection show on CBS.
“I told our guys at the outset, ‘I think we’re on the outside looking in,’ ” Bennett said. “I said, ‘I hope we’ll be pleasantly surprised. In some ways, we deserve to be strongly considered. In some ways, we couldn’t finish out strong.’ ”
After a 73-68 upset of then-No. 3 Duke in late February, Virginia lost three of its final four games.
Four ACC teams made the NCAA field: regular-season and ACC Tournament champion Miami, North Carolina, Duke and N.C. State. The Wolfpack defeated the Cavaliers, 75-56, in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals Friday.
Bennett said he isn’t sure the Cavaliers would have made the NCAA field even if they’d beaten the Wolfpack.
“When I saw Carolina get that [No. 8] seed, I was sort of surprised,” Bennett said. “I think the ACC is a really good conference and I was just hoping that it would garner a little more respect than that.”
NCAA basketball chairman Mike Bobinski, the current Xavier athletic director and soon-to-be Georgia Tech athletic director, was asked about Middle Tennessee State and its credentials compared to schools like UVa, Maryland and Tennessee.
Middle Tennessee was the final at-large team to make the field, according to seeding information furnished by the NCAA.
“Great question,” Bobinski said. “We talked in great length about the ability to win on the road. Other teams really struggled to take their show on the road.”
Virginia was 3-7 on the road but did have a victory at Wisconsin, which reached the Big Ten championship game Sunday before losing to Ohio State.
“It’s not who you beat; it’s who did you lose to,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said. “What I have a problem with is, the little guy won every fight without having to beat anybody.
“If they think the big guy being snubbed makes them more likely to leave a conference, then it’s working. I don’t want to hear it anymore.”
Dick Vitale, who has been known to take up the ACC cause, wasn’t as eager to defend the Cavaliers.
“They were 0-3 against [the Colonial Athletic Associaton] and you cannot do that,” Vitale said. “The teams that got in, I can live with.”
Virginia’s opponent Tuesday night, received an automatic NIT bid after winning the regular-season title in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Trojans had a 16-0 conference record before losing to Bethune Cookman, 70-68, in the first round of the MEAC Tournament.
Norfolk State and Virginia will find themselves at the same venue for the second year in a row after being sent to Omaha, Neb., for the 2012 NCAA Tournament. The Trojans upset Missouri in the game following Virginia’s loss to Florida.
UVa susbequently agreed to play in the preseason NIT this year but a second-round home loss to Delaware prevented the Cavaliers from facing the likes of Michigan and Kansas State and elevating their strength of schedule.
“I told our guys, if we have a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament, be thankful for that,” he said. “If not, we’ll play in the NIT and let’s be the best NIT team we can be.”
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