In case you were wondering why the University of Virginia traveled more than 6,000 miles recently to play the likes of Chaminade and the University of Brigham Young-Hawaii, the answer is simple.
Virginia is doing what most college basketball powers are doing these days, putting together an exotic trip that does two things: helps recruiting and tacks on a couple of easy victories.
Major college teams crave the opportunity to play outside the continent against any kind of NCAA opponent. They aren't necessarily moneymaking games but they're worth the effort.
High school players being recruited want to know where they will be traveling if they sign with a given school. North Carolina has been to Europe at Christmas three times in recent years, and also to Hawaii. North Carolina State is going to Hawaii this year. Clemson went last year. Virginia has gone twice in three years. Last year, UCLA and Temple went to Tokyo. Louisville and Oregon State did the same this year.
Also, games not played in the contiguous United States do not count against the NCAA's 27-game regular season limit (the first round of a conference tournament is considered the 27th game). That is why the Great Alaska Shootout never has trouble getting seven good teams each Thanksgiving. The teams are guaranteed three games that mean a chance for three extra victories at season's end and extra experience.
Georgetown lost two of three up there a year ago, but without that trip, the Hoyas would have finished 19-10 instead of 20-12. Any coach will say you take 20 wins any way you can get them.
So, expect the trend to continue. Virginia was 19-10 two years ago before receiving its NIT bid. When they didn't get an NCAA bid, the Cavaliers complained loudly. What many had forgotten was that without that year's Hawaii trip--to play weak opposition, just like this year--the Cavaliers would have been 17-10.
In college basketball, victories mean prestige. And prestige means money. And money is always the bottom line.