With the news that Tech will not be making a return trip to the Big Dance, we are all disappointed right now. Let’s take a look at who got in over VT and why.
- #12 seed villanova (20-12, 9-9 Big East) – nova is the last at-large in the tournament. In fact, they are the only at-large with a #12 seed or lower. The Hokies and the cats have almost identical resumes. nova had one more win, 9 wins in conference play, a big conference tourney win (syracuse), and neighboring RPIs (low 50s). Also, they got screwed by officials in losses to nc state and georgetown, so they have a similar gripe as VT does in their close losses. The difference is nova went 4-7 against RPI Top 50, and this is what gave them the nod over Tech.
- #11 baylor (20-10, 9-7 Big 12) – The Big 12 was #2 in conference RPI. baylor beat three NCAA teams: notre dame, texas a&m, and kansas state. Their RPI was also about 10 spots higher than the Hokies. The bears did lose to a poor colorado team in the Big 12 Tourney, but their body of work was apparently enough. I think you could flip a coin on them or VT.
- #11 kentucky (18-12, 12-4 SEC) – Left for dead back in December, the cats came rolling back with a 12-4 SEC record. But their loss to georgia in the SEC quarterfinals put them back on the bubble and their RPI was close to VT’s. However, they were 4-6 against RPI Top 50 and 8 of their 12 losses were to tourney teams. They also beat #2 seed tennessee. 12 wins in the SEC has to get you in, plain and simple.
- #11 kansas state (20-11, 10-6 Big 12) – 3rd place in the Big 12 regular season (had VT beaten clemson, they would have been 3rd in the ACC and likely in). Similar RPI to VT. Beat #1 seed kansas. Lost in quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tourney. Lost 5 of their last 7 and 6 of 9. 3-6 against RPI Top 50. Honestly, I think VT has as strong a case as the cats, if not more of one. Again, you have to think the 3 RPI Top 50 wins to just one for VT is the difference. Also, they have a 1st Team All-American in Michael Beasley. But they stunk down the stretch while VT was solid.
- #11 st. joe’s (21-12, 9-7 A-10) – They beat #3 seed xavier twice, including in the A-10 semi-finals, and this got them in. Also beat fellow bubble team villanova. RPI was about 6-8 higher than VT. On the flip side, the were 3-6 to finish the regular season, including 3 losses to teams with a RPI of 130 or higher. I just don’t see how they got a bid over VT, other than their 5 Top 50 wins. But this is misleading, they beat umass twice (who didn’t make the tourney) and beat xavier twice. Also beat temple who wouldn’t have gotten in had they not won the A-10. So, to me, their Top 50 wins aren’t that impressive.
- #10 south alabama (26-6, 16-2 Sun Belt) – #37 RPI, so almost 15 higher than VT. 3-2 against Top 50 teams, but two of those were against conference member western kentucky. The other was a nice out of conference win over mississippi state. Only played 7 games against Top 100 teams, compared to 15 for VT. Are 16 Sun Belt wins and 26 overall better than 9 ACC wins and 19 overall? I guess so. I’m just not sure I agree.
- #10 st. mary’s (25-6, 12-2 West Coast) – Similar RPI to south bama. Beat drake, which is a huge win in hindsight. Split with gonzaga. 2-3 against RPI Top 50 and 7-6 against Top 100. They were a tourney lock until they lost in the West Coast semi-finals. But they had already punched their ticket before that. What hurts VT is st. mary’s beat gonzaga while gonzaga blew the Hokies out in Alaska.
- #10 arizona (19-14, 8-10 Pac-10) – In case you are keeping score, this is the FOURTH “wildcats” on this bubble list… #3 RPI conference. #38 RPI, so lumped in with so-bama and st. mary’s. 5-8 against Top 50 teams and #2 SOS. That got them in, despite a losing conference record. The counter argument is they lost 7 of their last 10 regular season games and their last two wins were against awful oregon state. Why did indiana get punished for stinking it up late but arizona and kansas state didn’t? But like I said, their 5 Top 50 wins and #2 SOS got them in.
- Six teams with RPIs higher than VT got overlooked for at-large bids also.
What killed VT:
- Jeff Allen had a free throw to give VT the lead against butler in Alaska with 10 seconds left but missed and the Hokies lost in OT. A win there would have made them 2-5 against Top 50 RPI teams in the end (because they wouldn’t have played gonzaga in the title game).
- The heartbreaking loss at clemson on a questionable foul.
- The unc loss in the ACC semis.
- VT’s out of conference SOS was just 137 and VT went just 9-5.
- You could argue that 19 conference champs made the tournament that wouldn’t have had they not won their conference, including all but one of the #12 seeds.Â Usually most of the #12 seeds are at-large bids.Â That means about 2-3 fewer at-large bids were around this year than most years.
I think if any of the three games above go the other way, VT is in. But heck, the fact we may have been the first team out speaks volumes about how much this Hokie team overachieved on expectations. The Hokies did not have a schedule to make the NCAA Tournament this year, and that was intentional based on their youth. gonzaga and butler were the only out of conference teams VT played that were in the Top 120 of the RPI. Tech needed some easy out of conference games early to build confidence and figure out rotations. It ended up reaping huge benefits as the Hokies gelled. And VT’s ACC schedule was as easy as it could have been, having played the other four top five ACC teams just once each.
Next season, the Hokies will need to add some tougher out of conference contests to help bolster their resume. And they’ll need to win some of those games, of course. Plus, their ACC schedule likely will be more difficult. Hopefully next year we will be sitting pretty on Selection Sunday instead of saying what might have been.