washingtonpost.com  > Sports > Leagues and Sports > College Basketball - Men > NCAA Men's Tournament

Hokies, Irish Disappointed but Resigned

For Big-Name Schools, Bids Undermined By Untimely Losses

By Mark Schlabach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 14, 2005; Page G07

Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg didn't expect to hear the Hokies' name called during last night's NCAA tournament selection show. But that realization didn't ease Greenberg's disappointment when his team wasn't included in the 65-team NCAA tournament field.

The Hokies (15-13) were left out after they finished fourth in the ACC with an 8-8 record and then lost to Georgia Tech in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. Georgia Tech and North Carolina State, which finished behind the Hokies in the ACC standings, both received at-large bids. The Yellow Jackets and Wolfpack played tougher nonconference schedules and performed better in the ACC tournament.

Notre Dame's Omari Israel, left, and Rick Cornett react as the closing seconds tick away in a Big East quarterfinal loss to Rutgers. (Frank Franklin Ii -- AP)

"We did not take care of business in nonconference," said Greenberg, whose team lost to Virginia Military Institute, St. John's and Western Michigan early in the season. "If we had done that, then maybe we'd have a gripe. The one thing we hung our hat on was we were 8-8 in the ACC and finished in fourth. We were a different basketball team late. But we didn't do what we had to do."

The Hokies will play Temple (16-13) at 8 p.m. tomorrow in Blacksburg, Va., in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.

Greenberg probably isn't as disappointed as basketball fans in Indiana. For the first time since 1972, the NCAA tournament won't include a team from the state. Notre Dame was the state's best hope of receiving an at-large bid, but the Fighting Irish were passed over after finishing 17-11 and 9-7 in the Big East Conference. Notre Dame lost four of its last five, including a 72-65 loss to Rutgers in the first round of the conference tournament last week.

Notre Dame was the first team to beat No. 7 Boston College and had home victories against No. 12 Connecticut and No. 19 Villanova. The Fighting Irish also played the toughest Big East schedule, playing two games each against Connecticut, Syracuse, Villanova and Pittsburgh.

The Fighting Irish will host Holy Cross (24-6) in the first round of the NIT.

"I'm sure the guys are disappointed but it would have more of an unbelievable surprise if they got in," Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey said. "I think 90 percent of them knew where we were going this coming week."

The Crusaders were one of 11 teams that won 20 games but failed to receive an NCAA at-large bid. Kent State (20-12), Wichita State (20-9) and Buffalo (22-9) were the most highly regarded of the teams that won 20 games but were snubbed for the NCAAs.

Indiana (15-12) played one of the tougher schedules in college basketball and finished 10-6 in the Big Ten. But no team has ever received an NCAA at-large bid with fewer than 16 wins. The Hoosiers won four of five games, including an overtime upset of Michigan State, before losing badly to Minnesota in the conference tournament quarterfinals.

Iowa, which finished 21-11 and 7-9 in the Big Ten, got an at-large bid and is a No. 10 seed in the NCAAs.

"The important thing to remember is that conference games are just like an other games," said Bob Bowlsby, athletics director at Iowa and chairman of the NCAA men's basketball selection committee. "We try to dissect conference games very carefully. An institution has never gotten into the NCAA tournament with 15 wins. Indiana played a very good schedule and had a chance to play themselves into the tournament."

The last of the NCAA at-large teams were all No. 11 seeds: Alabama-Birmingham (21-10), Northern Iowa (21-10) and UCLA (18-10).

The Blazers, who upset No. 1 seed Kentucky in the second round last year and lost to Kansas in the regional semifinals, earned an at-large bid over fellow Conference USA member DePaul. Alabama-Birmingham beat the Demons during the regular season and again in the conference tournament. The Blazers play No. 6 seed LSU in Boise, Idaho, on Thursday.

"When they said our name it was the best feeling," Blazers forward Demario Eddins said. "After playing in the tournament last year and getting to go again is just a good feeling. LSU is a good team so we are just going to go out there and play them hard."

Saint Joseph's, which finished 30-2 last season and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, didn't receive an at-large bid this year. The Hawks finished 19-11 and won the Atlantic 10 regular season title with a 14-2 record in league play, but lost to George Washington, 76-67, in the conference tournament final. When the Colonials were seeded No. 12 in the NCAAs, it was pretty evident the Hawks weren't getting in, too.

The omissions of Miami (Ohio) and Buffalo also were a surprise to many college basketball fans. Most analysts who project the NCAA tournament bracket included at least one of the two teams and several had both.

The Bulls won nine of 10 games before losing to Ohio, 80-79, on a tap-in at the buzzer in overtime of the Mid-American Conference tournament championship. Buffalo had an RPI ranking of No. 46 and three teams with worse rankings -- No. 49 Alabama-Birmingham, No. 62 Iowa State and No. 63 North Carolina State -- received at-large bids.

"There were a number of very good teams in the Mid-American Conference," Bowlsby said.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company