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Bubble Banter: Hoos Making Progress With 4 Weeks To Go

Virginia v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

“You’re gonna have to learn your cliches. You’re going to have to study them. You’re going to have to know them. They’re your friends. Write this down. We’ve got to play them one day at a time.” - Crash Davis

Survive and advance...

Play their way into the field...

A lot of basketball left...

Bubble teams across the country will do their darndest these next four weeks to make sure their names are called on Selection Sunday. And you can bet that their fans and players will make Crash Davis proud.

It’s cliche season, Wahoo fans. And your beloved Virginia Cavaliers are doing their part.

The Hoos survived and advanced last week, nipping Notre Dame and North Carolina to stay on the right side of this week’s bracket projections. While other bubble teams like VCU, Memphis, and NC State have staggered, Virginia’s been playing its way into the field by winning 5 of its last 6 games. And with home games against Duke and Louisville looming, there’s a lot of basketball left for UVA to boost its tournament resume.

So make sure to study up on your cliches. Four weeks is a long time.

Schedule Analysis:

Unfortunately, neither of Virginia’s wins last week will move the needle with the selection committee. Virginia actually dropped in the NET rankings despite going 2-0. The sad truth is that ACC is so weak this year that UVA will only impress the committee if it beats Duke or Louisville. The other games, as important as they are, don’t come with much upside.

As a reminder, here’s how I labeled Virginia’s schedule in last week’s column:

  • Must-Wins: Boston College (February 19)
  • Favorables: Notre Dame (February 11) Win
  • Toss-Ups: at UNC (February 15) Win, at Pitt (February 22), at Virginia Tech (February 26), at Miami (March 4)
  • Unfavorables: Duke (February 29), Louisville (March 7)
  • Long-Shots: N/A

Last week, I suggested that UVA would need to win at least six of its final eight to feel comfortable on Selection Sunday. So far so good. Four more wins, and I think the Hoos will be good to go.

What do the Bracketologists Say?

As of Monday morning, 72 of America’s best 78 bracketologists had Virginia in the field. What’s more, those bracket “experts” have the Wahoos among the last four teams getting byes — meaning they’d avoid the First Four in Dayton and move straight into the main bracket if the tournament started today. Both changes represent a slight upgrade in UVA’s position compared to last week.

By avoiding bad losses, Tony Bennett’s squad continues to inch its way towards the Big Dance.

What to Watch:

Virginia has two more important games this week: at home against Boston College on Wednesday and on the road against Pittsburgh on Saturday. UVA would do well to win both of them. A loss at Pitt wouldn’t sink Virginia’s tournament chances, but it would certainly decrease the margin of error headed into the regular season’s final fortnight.

Elsewhere, the following games could have big-time bubble implications across the country:

Tuesday - VCU and Purdue get chances for big wins against Dayton and Wisconsin, respectively.

Wednesday - Georgetown looks to improve its position at home against Providence, while NC State takes a shot at a signature win against Duke.

Thursday - Arizona State, who the Hoos beat in November, hosts a ranked Oregon squad. Joe Lunardi has the Sun Devils one spot below UVA in his bracket.

Saturday - Alabama faces Ole Miss on the road. NC State hosts FSU.

Sunday - Wichita State travels to Cincinnati to sort out the pecking order in the AAC.

As always, we’ll have a better sense of where the Hoos sit this time next week. Until then, you gotta have faith.