For the Virginia Cavaliers, it's a whole new season. If the Hoos want to stand even the smallest of chances to hear their name called by someone - anyone - on Selection Sunday, the next one, two, three, and hopefully maybe even four days will be their entire season. And unfortunately for Virginia, it's not all in their hands.
The 8th-seeded Virginia (the Cavaliers' highest seed in the tournament since a No. 2 seed in 2007) enters the tournament with an overall 16-14 record, which means that they are guaranteed eligibility for post-season play. The Cavs are 7-9 in the ACC, after winning four of the last five games. Prior to that, Virginia lost eight of ten games, which certainly doesn't help any sort of NCAA resume the Hoos are trying to put together.
Alright. I won't be delusional here. There is only one way Virginia is making the big dance -- it takes hardware to win hardware.
Virginia plays 9th-seeded Miami (18-13, 6-10) in the first round. Should the Hoos move on, they get the distinct honor of playing the ACC regular season champion North Carolina Tar Heels.
Let's assume -- just for a second -- that Virginia will not win the entire tournament. The question is, how many wins will it take to put together an NIT invitation?The answer is a little trickier than just looking the win-loss columns of Virginia's schedule. Unfortunately for the Hoos, the bubble is pretty big (read: weak) this year for teams still trying to make the big dance. In the ACC, it looks like North Carolina, Duke, and Florida State are virtual locks. Clemson, Boston College, and Virginia Tech, all of whom have 9-7 and 19- or 20-win seasons already, are all still hoping to dance, but by no means are any of the confident heading into the games this week. It's more likely than not that at least one of these teams will get off the bubble and into the main event, leaving two others out for the NIT pickin'. Throw into the mix Maryland, who's almost guaranteed an NIT bid, and hey, maybe even Miami, and we're looking at a pretty crowded line to get into the club across the street.
And this isn't specific to the ACC. It seems as though this year, more teams than ever are hanging out on the bubble, which is great for entertainment's sake this Sunday, but terrible for Virginia.
Virginia's resume has been a back-and-forth one all season long. On the one hand, Virginia has a few solid wins, including one on the road at No. 17 Minnesota, and of course, a two-game sweep over NCAA-hopefuls Virginia Tech. The losses, though, are horrific, including Seattle (which doesn't even have a logo on ESPN's site), Iowa State (3-13 in the Big 12) and Wake Forest (1-15 in the ACC).
Unfortunately, I don't think a win today over Miami is enough to get the Hoos into the NIT. A win over North Carolina, though, could very well be the signature win they need to punch their ticket. A little help from their fellow ACC brethren couldn't hurt -- having Boston College or Clemson win the tournament guarantees them to get off the bubble and would open up a spot in the NITs for the Hoos. Obviously, while a Virginia Tech title would do the same, no one wants that.