Virginia Tech's NCAA tournament chances undone by a weak schedule

Malcolm Delaney and Virginia Tech won 10 ACC games, but many came against the conference's lower half. The Hokies came up short against Miami on Friday.
Malcolm Delaney and Virginia Tech won 10 ACC games, but many came against the conference's lower half. The Hokies came up short against Miami on Friday. (Chris Keane/reuters)
By Mark Viera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 15, 2010

BLACKSBURG, VA. -- Virginia Tech spent the first half of its season stockpiling wins and buffing a gaudy record. But on Sunday, all the wins didn't add up to an NCAA tournament berth.

The Hokies (23-8, 10-6) were left out of the field of 65 for a third straight season largely as a result of a hollow nonconference schedule and a soft ACC slate that featured only a game apiece against the league's top teams.

Virginia Tech will host Quinnipiac on Wednesday in the opening round of the National Invitation Tournament.

"One of the things that allows us to distinguish between one team and another, as you well know, is strength of schedule, especially nonconference strength of schedule," Dan Guerrero, the chair of the NCAA division I men's basketball committee and the UCLA athletic director, said Sunday night in a teleconference. "And that was an area that really hurt Virginia Tech as we talked about whether they made the tournament or not."

Virginia Tech became the first ACC team with 10 regular season conference wins to be left out of the field since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

The Hokies finished tied for third in the ACC regular season standings. But the number that mattered most in the eyes of the selection committee was 339. That was the rank of the Hokies' nonconference schedule, out of 347 teams, in the Ratings Percentage Index.

On Sunday night, Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg said the committee's standards were erratic from year to year and questioned the selection process.

"We've got to figure out what's the criteria, because the criteria changes," Greenberg said. "Each selection committee has their own criteria and you have no control over you opponents and opponents' opponents winning percentage."

But for as much damage as Virginia Tech's nonconference schedule did to its NCAA tournament chances, the Hokies were on the bubble this weekend before seeing watching burst in a wrenching 48-hour span.

After falling to 12th-seeded Miami on Friday in the ACC tournament, the Hokies found themselves in the spotlight with a handful of teams vying for the final at-large spots. As a bubble team, Virginia Tech couldn't afford having surprise teams win their conference.

Greenberg said he followed Saturday's scores but opted to attend his youngest daughter's volleyball game. With some surprising results on Saturday, the bubble constricted tightly.

Houston upset Texas-El Paso in the Conference USA tournament final. Washington knocked off California in the Pacific-10 championship. And late Saturday night, New Mexico State upset Utah State to win the Western Athletic Conference tournament.

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