Path to the Tourney

Hello. It’s been a long time. I know I haven’t been living up to my end of the bargain. So much stuff going on in Wahooland and I’ve been gallivanting around The Commonwealth. Well, all that is coming to an end. While we, and by we, I mean Bloguin, is revamping our site, I decided to use this snow day to catch up on where the Men’s Basketball Team stands in relation to going to the tourney, and what it will take to finish out the season.

UVa Now

The paper numbers don’t lie. After a strong-ish November, and a bleak December, the Hoos have used the new year to take it to the ACC. UVa has a mark of 14-5 with a 5-1 Conference record, which puts them just outside of the Top 25. More importantly that what a bunch of writers and coaches think of Virginia, is our RPI, which as of this morning on ESPN, is 19. We will dissect that in a minute, but rest assured, that is more than enough to not only consider the Cavaliers a tourney team, but a very strong seed.

What’s Going Right?

·         Non-Conference Scheduling. One of the 2 big knocks on the Hoos last year was the fact that they played an extremely weak non-conference opponents. In 2012-13, our NCSS (non-conference strength of schedule) was 300 out of 342, one of the worst in the country, and had an RPI in those games of 76. This season, the Hoos NCSS is 36, with an RPI of 6. What has made the difference?

·         Quality Losses vs. Bad Losses. No one likes losing, but not all loses are the same. Scheduling quality opponents and losing to them look a lot better to committees that beating a ton of weaker teams. Virginia last year had a bad schedule and a slew of NC bad losses, including @George Mason, Delaware, and (n)Old Dominion, who ended up with an RPI of 318. This year, Virginia lost to VCU, Wisconsin, and Tennessee, all with solid RPIs and all projected NCAA Tourney teams.

·         Solid R+N. You don’t hear a lot of media people toss this one around, until you get to selection time. R+N is road plus neutral wins. You want to bash UVa? “They are only 2-3 on the road, which means that they sit at home and play games, only traveling when they have to.” I’ve heard that a lot this year. The fact is NCAA Selection Committee looks at ANY time you are away from home, which is where R+N comes into play. The Hoos are 3-0 on neutral court, win wins over Davidson in Charlotte (practically a home game for the Wildcats), and a pair of wins in Corpus Christi against Missouri State and SMU, which are both solid wins. Throw in the fact that the other 2 road wins were in the ACC, and the FSU win is considered a ‘quality win’.

·         Remaining Schedule. It’s not that the ACC is easy in any sense of speaking, but Virginia’s schedule from here on out is not a difficult one. Only 2 games remaining are against RPI Top 50 teams: February 2nd at Pitt and March 1st against Syracuse. Virginia also finishes the year with 3 of the last 4 games at home sandwiched between road games at Virginia Tech and Maryland. Knocking on wood, the Hoos have a solid chance at a Top 4 seed in the ACC tournament, which would lock, I SAID LOCK, them into the NCAAs.

What’s Going Wrong?

·         Tennessee. It’s more than an Arrested Development song, it is the one loss this season everyone is going to reference. A 35-point loss on a road ended a very disappointing December, which saw the Hoos head to Green Bay and lose to the Phoenix by 3 and only take out Norfolk State at home by 10. Although the body of work is solid, and Tennessee’s RPI is currently 56, it is the current major talking point why the Hoos should not get in the tourney.

·         Missed Opportunities. Twice this year, teams have used insane 3-point shots to sink the Hoos. First it was VCU at home, who sank a shot from [insert city near Charlottesville] with ticks on the clock to win by 3. Then it was Duke who sank a Jordan/Bird Big Mac shot in the waning seconds to grab the lead back and win by 5. Both losses sting, because they could have been ‘quality wins’.

·         Remaining Schedule. It's a double edged sword, or a two-player swing (Thanks Patches). While the schedule is opponent friendly, it is not friendly in the search for those named wins. Hoos only play 2 more ranked teams, as we mentioned, but face 4 opponents who would be easily considered a bad loss: VT twice, Boston College, and @Georgia Tech. We all remember the BC loss after the Duke win, which pretty much put doubt into the committee’s mind.

How Can We Close?

1.       Just win. UVa finishes 26-5 and 17-1 in conference. Wins 3 more in ACC Tourney. Top 3 seed. Dogs and cats, living together. Mass hysteria.

2.       Win the games you should win. UVa finishes 24-7, 15-3 in conference. Wins 2 in the ACC Tourney. Top 5 seed. I lead the parade down Rugby Road.

3.       Win an expected amount of games. UVa finishes 22-9, 13-5 in ACC, with a loss to a bad team. Wins 1 in the tourney. Top 9 seed. Mission Accomplished

4.       Finish like we did in last 2 seasons. UVa finishes 19-11, 10-8 in ACC. 1 ACC win, but on Thursday. Send fruit baskets to committee. NIT most likely. I lead a parade down Rugby Road, that no one attends except my arresting officer.

What Happens?

Virginia will be somewhere between Scenario 2 and 3, more likely 3. Just knowing history, Virginia finishing on this pace at 15-3 is a long shot. We said that in this ACC 12-6 would get you a Top 4 seed. I might amend that to 13-5, which is still likely, but not probable. Look for the Hoos to make the tourney on that 7/10 line. Which side is still debatable. 

Hamilton Riley

About Hamilton Riley

Mild mannered contractor by day, sports blogger by insomnia.