BLACKSBURG, Va. — Virginia Tech men’s basketball program has endured plenty of near-misses on Selection Sunday in recent years, but this year’s snub by the NCAA tournament selection committee seemed the cruelest rejection yet.
Not only did the Hokies fail to land their first NCAA tournament berth since 2007, the denial means seniors Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen will end their illustrious careers without participating in an NCAA tournament game.
“It makes you wonder if someone in that room has their own agenda, and it does not include Virginia Tech unfortunately,” Coach Seth Greenberg said. “You’d hate to think there’s politics involved, but it makes you wonder.”
Following Virginia Tech’s 77-63 loss to Duke in the ACC tournament semifinal Saturday afternoon, many predicted the Hokies had done enough to warrant one of the 37 at-large berths in this year’s expanded 68-team field after they defeated Florida State, 52-51, in the quarterfinals.
The Hokies will now face Bethune-Cookman in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament at Cassell Coliseum on Wednesday night.
During a teleconference with reporters Sunday night, NCAA tournament selection committee chairman Gene Smith said a big reason the Hokies weren’t included yet again was a lack of wins over quality opponents. Virginia Tech finished the season with a 2-5 record against teams ranked amongst the RPI’s top 50.
“While [Virginia Tech] significantly improved their non-conference schedule and teams that they play, it’s still about how you did,” said Smith, who is also Ohio State’s athletic director.
In 2010, the committee opted not to give Virginia Tech a berth largely because of a weak non-conference schedule that ranked 339th in the country, according to the Ratings Percentage Index. The Hokies won a school-record 25 games a year ago, and became the first ACC team since the tournament field expanded to 64 teams in 1985 to win 10 league games and not make the NCAA field.
In response, Greenberg scheduled a much tougher early-season non-conference slate this year, with games against tournament-bound teams like Purdue, Kansas State, UNLV and Penn State. The Hokies most notable wins out of conference came over the Nittany Lions and Oklahoma State. Virginia Tech also defeated Duke in Blacksburg and Florida State twice, both of whom were included in this year’s field.
Greenberg vehemently disagreed with Smith’s reasoning, and said some teams included in this year’s field “beat no one.”
“It’s not a right to make the NCAA tournament, but . . . if you listen to what’s said and break down the number of those institutions that received NCAA bids, it doesn’t make any sense,” said Greenberg, who added that it was the ACC’s job to look further into the reasoning. “You wonder about the human element, and how that comes into play.”
What may have doomed the Hokies, though, was their one-week swoon following a resounding upset of the then top-ranked Blue Devils. Virginia Tech suffered a 15-point loss to Boston College on senior night at Cassell Coliseum, and then lost at Clemson to close the regular season.
Clemson will take on Alabama-Birmingham in a play-in game for the East region No. 12 seed in Dayton, Ohio Tuesday. Southern California and Virginia Commonwealth will face each other Wednesday in the other play in game, battling for an No. 11 seed in the southwest region.
“At the end of the day, when we stacked Virginia Tech’s resume up against all the other teams, we just didn’t feel like they were a team that should be in the at-large field,” Smith said.
Virginia Tech watched Sunday’s selection show together at the coach’s Blacksburg home. Greenberg said didn’t say much after the Hokies went unselected, only that “he was sorry for them.” But he couldn’t hide how disappointed he was that the achievements of Delaney, Allen and classmate Terrell Bell — who led Virginia Tech to 86 wins, two shy of a school record — may now be overlooked by the fact that they could never lead the Hokies to the NCAA tournament.
“I hurt for these kids, probably more because of the closure,” Greenberg said. “Let’s face it, there’s finality for those three seniors who have won so many games, so many league games, beaten the No. 1 team in the country twice, and they’re not gonna get their just reward.”