Reporting James Sikorski
For the fourth straight year, Virginia Tech was overlooked on Selection Sunday. This year was supposed to be different for Seth Greenburg and company. The NCAA field expanded from 65 to 68 teams, the Hokies upset No. 1 Duke late in the season and they won two games in their conference tournament.
For this reason, it was a surprise to Hokie Nation that their team had indeed been left on the outside looking in for the fourth consecutive year.
Perhaps the most disappointing part of the Hokies being left out of the field is the fact that Malcolm Delaney, Jeff Allen and Terrell Bell will never get the chance to showcase what they have to offer on the national platform. Delaney and Allen alone have earned the opportunity after becoming elite ACC players and helping their team knock off a No. seeded team twice in their career.
Sunday night, Virginia Tech became the sixth team to beat a No. 1 team and have a winning conference record to be excluded from the NCAA Tournament since the field expanded to 64 teams.
Unfortunately for Virginia Tech, the selection committee felt Clemson, Florida State, VCU, USC and UAB were all better candidates to make the field.
How does Virginia Tech match up to the final five selected to the field?
The Hokies and Clemson had a very similar resume. Both teams finished the season 21-11 and had lackluster wins. Virginia Tech seemed to take the leap when it upset Duke, but then fell flat on its face after back-to-back losses to Boston College and Clemson. The Tigers meanwhile failed to beat a team inside the RPI-top 50. Their key wins came against Virginia Tech to close out the season and then against Boston College in the second round of the ACC Tournament. Clemson has three ugly losses, just like the Hokies and it appears the late head-to-head win for Clemson pushed them into the NCAA tournament.
Virginia Tech faced Florida State twice this season, coming away with a win both times—yes the Hokies were .01 seconds away from losing the second matchup, but a win is a win. Both teams beat Duke when it was ranked No. 1. A win over then No. 15 (now RPI 90) Baylor seems to be the difference between the two. Both teams beat up on weaker competition and lost to the majority of their quality opponents while dropping a handful of games they shouldn’t have (VT against Georgia Tech and UVA; FSU against Auburn). If Clemson gets in with one head-to-head win, then Florida State getting in after two losses at the hands of the Hokies has to be the most questionable decision from Sunday.
VCU got in as the second at-large bid in the CAA. The Rams left more to be desired after they finished the regular season 3-5 (with big losses to George Mason, ODU and JMU). VCU turned it around in the conference tournament by beating Drexel and upsetting George Mason in the semifinals. It appeared their NCAA Tournament chances were over after a five-point loss to ODU in the CAA final, but the selection committee saw something special in the Rams. With wins over ODU, George Mason and UCLA (all RPI top-50), the Rams didn’t appear to have enough quality on their resume to make up for losses to three teams with an RPI of 150+.
Virginia Tech losing to UVA twice and once to Georgia Tech certainly tainted its chances, but both VCU and Virginia Tech have a large amount of non-quality wins with a hand full of losses to better competition.
The Trojans are in the middle of another athletic scandal and this time it’s swirling around its basketball program. USC’s coach was just suspended and the Trojans suffered 14 losses this season. Looking past those two gaffs in the resume, and USC has a legitimate argument. The Trojans went 5-5 against RPI top-50 teams, but also have at least six bad losses on their schedule. Five wins against RPI top-50 teams is more than any other bubble team and their 6-2 finish shows they are peaking in time for the NCAA Tournament.
UAB’s only quality win comes at the hands of VCU. What played into UAB’s favor was the fact it only has one bad loss on the entire schedule and 10 wins against the RPI top-100. UAB had a very favorable schedule and did its part in winning the games it was presented. The problem with Hokie Nation is that was the very reason the Hokies were left out of the tournament field the past two years. The message was clear that scheduling stiffer competition—and winning—would get a bubble team over the hump. Playing one team (Duke) in the RPI top-30 doesn’t necessarily qualify as stiff competition.
There you have it, a quick synopsis of the five teams selected ahead of the Hokies. As you can tell, there is a case for and against every team, including Virginia Tech.
Why did Virginia Tech get left out? There are a few reasons.
Virginia Tech had just eight healthy bodies in its regular rotation. After the suspension of freshman Jarrell Eddie, Greenburg was left to just seven off the bench—after freshman Tyrone Garland struggled to see court time against FSU and Duke, the rotation quickly shrank to six. Playing a whole season with few subs takes enough toll on the body, but entering a post-season tournament with just one substitute is formula for disaster when playing 2-3 games every few days. Kudos to Greenburg and company for getting the team into position after losing six scholarship players early this season, but it appears the selection committee felt other teams had a better chance in the tournament.
After beating Duke, Virginia Tech was a “sure” in. It appeared the team bought into that as they lost to fellow bubble teams Boston College and Clemson to close out the season. The losses weren’t even close and completely negated the upset against Duke. If the Hokies couldn’t even get the job done against bubble teams, how could they get a win against actual tournament teams? The losses made the Duke upset an emotional win at home and not a win that showcased the actual talent the roster has to offer.
Virginia Tech’s inability to schedule quality opponents outside of the conference has continually come back to haunt them. With four teams in the state of Virginia (from small conferences of CAA and A-ten) making the tournament, Greenburg has the resources close by to bolster his out of conference schedule. Will he finally elect to accept invitations against the smaller Virginia schools or will he continue to hope his out of conference schedule is good enough to slip into the tournament?
It’s a real bummer that Delaney and Allen will not be able to participate in the NCAA Tournament. They certainly have earned the right to, but inconsistency the past four seasons have led to Virginia Tech looking in from the outside.
The Hokies must quickly turn their attention to the NIT Tournament. Wednesday the Hokies have a date with Bethune-Cookman at 8 p.m. at Cassell Coliseum. Will the Hokies be able to dig themselves out of the dumps to compete in the NIT or will their disappointment prove too much to overcome?