The Virginia Cavaliers are 13-1 for the first time in thirty years, since the time of Cavalier legend Ralph Sampson. As the Hoos look to open ACC play on Saturday against Miami (9-4, 0-0 ACC), the media has started to take a liking to the Cavs, who are ranked No. 21 in the AP poll and No. 23 in the coaches poll.
As of today, Pomeroy ranks Virginia as No. 30 in the country, and even has a pretty feel-good story about Mike Scott, your most underrated player in the country. ESPN's Joe Lunardi's most recent bracketology predicts the Hoos to come in as a No. 5 seed. ESPN's John Gasaway calls Virginia "unsung," and Mike Scott "a clear candidate for ACC Player of the Year so far."
Nothing here is meant to take away from our celebration that this team really looks like it's going places. But before we start buying our tickets to New Orleans, I think it's worth our while to stay grounded.
So far, Virginia has only played one time inside the RPI 50 -- that was a solid 70-58 win over RPI 39 Michigan at home. After this, the Hoos have only played four other teams in the RPI 100, but have played six teams outside the RPI 200. Two of those six, even, are outside the RPI 300 -- Towson (No. 324, 0-15 record) and Longwood (No. 332, 3-11 record).
Virginia is currently ranked No. 49 in the RPI, but is the only team in the top 68 that has an SOS ranking over 200, at 232 (out of 344). Virginia and Clemson are the only two ACC schools with an SOS over 200. That Virginia is on an 11-game streak right now is perhaps less of a cause for celebration as it is a cause for nodding-our-head-to-doing-exactly-what-we're-supposed-to-do..
A chart with the ACC's RPI follows the jump.
|Rank||School||W-L||RPI||SOS Rank||RPI SOS|
And, just for fun time's sake, here's a chart showing the RPI and current record of each of our opponents to date:
|11-13||S. Carolina St.||2-10 (0-1)||237||75-38||W|
|11-25||Wisc. Green Bay||4-8 (2-2)||132||68-42||W|
|12-06||George Mason||10-4 (2-0)||152||68-48||W|
|12-27||MD Eastern Shore||2-11 (0-1)||296||69-42||W|
What's my point here?
Yes, Virginia is having a great year, one that many of us have not had the pleasure of experiencing, particularly as the Hoos have only had one NCAA tournament win in the past 16 years. But I can't help but think back to the 2001-2002 season, where the Hoos, led by Adam Hall, Roger Mason, Jr. and Chris Williams, were ranked as high as No. 4 in the country before ultimately failing to reach the NCAA tournament.
Saturday's game is huge. Miami is the best offense the Hoos have faced this season, according to Pomeroy rankings. The Hoos are at home, but due to winter break, won't have an electrifying home court JPJA advantage like they'd prefer. Virginia absolutely must take care of business here. The next two are equally important games -- first against Duke the following Thursday, at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke is the heavy favorite going into the game, and Virginia's main task, assuming winning is out of the question (and I refuse to believe that to be the case), is to keep the game tight. If Virginia can contain Duke and keep the score to a single-digit differential, then I think the Hoos will have walked away from that terrible place as the moral victors. Finally, the third game to open up conference play is against Georgia Tech the following Thursday, in Atlanta. For me, this is a game the Hoos should easily take care of, and it will be a testament to how well this Virginia squad can travel on the road in conference play, regardless of who is sitting in what seat.
That's a lot of words to say basically this: Virginia is still largely untested this season, but for a victory over Michigan in the ACC - Big Ten Challenge. The next three games will be crucial in preparing for the remainder of the season. Virginia first faces a formidable offense at home. Then, they take the show on the road in a seemingly impossible task at Duke. Finally, they continue the road show and see if they can defeat an opponent that, well, they really jusst should. If Hoos walk away from this as 2-1, I'll be relatively happy, and I can be pretty confident that a Tournament berth is in order. Lose more than one of the next three though, and prepare yourself for 2001 all over again.