The results of two games Saturday should help predict how many ACC teams will be invited to the NCAA tournament. Virginia Tech will visit North Carolina State; Miami will host Georgia Tech. All four teams are within two games of Maryland, which sits in fourth place.
With two weeks remaining in the regular season, only three schools -- North Carolina, Wake Forest and Duke -- are locks to earn NCAA tournament invitations. Granted, Maryland almost certainly will receive an invitation for its record (16-8, 7-6) as much as for its high Ratings Percentage Index, a measurement the selection committee uses to weigh a team's strength. The Terrapins' RPI is 22; no team with an RPI better than 33 has ever been left out.
Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg has his team pointed in the right direction. The Hokies have the easiest schedule remaining in the ACC.
(Gene Dalton -- Roanoke Times Via AP)
The real intrigue, though, surrounds the number of teams that should earn bids from the ACC, ranked as the nation's best conference. Some analysts have said the ACC hasn't proven as deep as the Big East -- although the ACC is more top heavy -- and shouldn't garner as many bids.
"They can't [get more teams] because our league has been rated, and not by me, the best conference in the country since the start of the season," Maryland Coach Gary Williams said, "so why should they [other leagues] deserve as many bids as us? I don't care what those guys say then, because the committee doesn't think like those guys think."
One factor the selection committee takes into account is a school's record over its final 10 games. That could bode well for the Wolfpack if Coach Herb Sendek's team continues its hot play. State might need eight conference victories for its NCAA tournament portfolio to counter a poor RPI (80). State (15-10, 5-7) has beaten Maryland and Georgia Tech in back-to-back games and plays three of its remaining four games at the RBC Center. Two of those games are against the ACC's elite -- Wake Forest and North Carolina -- including tonight's game against the Tar Heels. On Feb. 3, the Wolfpack lost to the Tar Heels by 24 points. Sendek, asked yesterday if there is one thing his team needs to do better tonight, said, "To be perfectly candid, we would have to change everything. I don't know if there was anything we did well."
Miami will be in serious trouble if the Hurricanes do not win at Florida State tonight. Miami (15-9, 6-7) has lost four of its last six games and plays two of its final three games on the road. The Hurricanes' RPI is decent at 54, but Miami is nonetheless in a perilous situation.
"I don't think our kids are feeling the pressure," Miami assistant Michael Hunt said. "Kids are resilient."
Georgia Tech is the most capable of the four ACC bubble teams after getting standout B.J. Elder back from a hamstring injury. With a healthy RPI (44), the Yellow Jackets (15-8, 6-6) need two victories in the four remaining games to virtually secure a bid.
Virginia Tech (14-10, 7-6) has the easiest remaining schedule, with Maryland, North Carolina State and Clemson having a combined ACC record of 14-23. The Hokies will need to win two of the games to feel somewhat comfortable about receiving an NCAA tournament berth.
Since 1992, only three of 59 ACC teams that finished with an 8-8 record were not invited to the NCAA tournament. But Tech has an incredibly poor RPI (100); no team with an RPI worse than 74 has ever been invited. Nonconference losses to VMI (320 RPI) and St. John's (161 RPI) have scarred Tech' s tournament résumé.
"The committee doesn't listen to Seth Greenberg or [ESPN analysts] Digger Phelps, Dick Vitale or Jay Bilas," Greenberg said. "Spending any time worrying about whether 8-8 or 9-7 is good enough, that energy could be used for preparing for [games]. It's senseless. I can't control what the magic number is."
Toeing, the Line
North Carolina Coach Roy Williams said star freshman Marvin Williams will feel the effects of turf toe for the remainder of the season. . . . Virginia Coach Pete Gillen said the coaching staff has kept a positive attitude with senior Elton Brown, who made 3 of 13 free throws in Saturday's 92-89 double-overtime loss to Maryland. Brown also missed two free throws in the final seconds of double overtime that would have tied the game. Gillen said Brown recently made 84 of 100 free throws in practice.