By Kartik Krishnaiyer
Our good buddy, Kartik Krishnaiyer from miami’s canesrising.com, was nice enough to write an article about his thoughts on the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee and Virginia Tech’s snub. He also participated in an Opposing View column back in February. TechHoops.com would like to thank him for taking the time to do this and offer his kind thoughts. And to show our gratitude, in an unprecedented move, we have left other schools’ names capitalized.
Hokie fans, I feel your pain. Everyone in ACC Country feels your pain. Talking to many around the country in the last 24 hours, those who understand the culture around ACC Basketball agree with me. Those who don’t understand ACC Basketball have little use for my arguments. But here is how I see what I consider a completely unjustified and unconscionable decision by the committee to take essentially mediocre teams like Villanova, Kansas State and Oregon over a battle tested winning ACC team like Virginia Tech.
- The committee needs to watch more basketball
Had any member of the selection committee watched Virginia Tech’s heartbreaking loss at Littlejohn Coliseum to Clemson last Sunday, they no doubt would have decided that the Hokies are not only a tournament team but probably a top eight seed somewhere. The odd call by an official to call a foul with three seconds remaining and put Clemson on the line for two free throws when the Hokies were up one and had shown the grit to make what appeared to be a game winning shot just seconds earlier was inexcusable. Following this heartbreak, Virginia Tech beat Miami, already considered an NCAA lock and team that secured a #7 seed in the tournament. Finally, the Hokies got unlucky not to at least get to overtime against the committee’s favorite team, #1 overall seed North Carolina. How can a team that beat one tournament team and took two other top seeds to the brink in a one week period and who had a winning record in a league which the RPI rated as the toughest in the nation by a wide margin be left out for a team like, say Kansas State or Oregon?
- Road games in the ACC are not equal to road games in other leagues
Much like the SEC in football, the ACC in basketball features home arenas where the passion is greater night in and night out than in any other league in America. The committee’s failure to understand that Virginia Tech’s road games are more hostile than Villanova’s show they have a fundamental misunderstanding of college basketball. Going 9-7 in the ACC is not like going 8-8 in the SEC or Big 12. It’s a whole lot tougher.
As a Miami fan, I recall we had a team that went 15-2 over a two season period on the road in the Big East. (December 1998 thru March 2000) In this period, Miami had exceptional talent, but not overwhelming talent by any stretch of the imagination. But it was fairly easy for a talented team to go into a large, half empty arena in a city center and steal a road game than to a loud partisan arena jam packed with students near the floor. The SEC in basketball resembles the ACC in football. Students come to games and cheer for their team but the passion the ACC has for basketball is lacking in SEC arenas while the passion the SEC has for football is generally lacking in ACC stadiums.
- The NCAA should understand traditional in-state rivalries
Early in his tenure as Miami Head Coach, Leonard Hamilton made the decision to discontinue Miami’s series with Florida, Florida State, and South Florida. Why? Coach Hamilton was of the belief that you don’t schedule games against in-state opponents that could lead to defeats that kill your program’s profile both locally and nationally. As Miami improved, Hamilton gradually got aggressive about placing Kentucky, North Carolina, and Indiana on UM’s schedule, but the in-state teams never returned until Perry Clark was the coach. Virginia Tech had three losses held against them by the committee: two were to in-state rivals Richmond and Old Dominion (both on the road): for this the Hokies should have been congratulated for playing these teams, not punished for losing. Miami was for years unwilling to play these games. More and more schools now follow Hamilton’s example. The committee must realize that losing to an in-state rival from a smaller league is not like losing to a team from a smaller league from another region.
- The NCAA needs to realize that some teams without returning stars need time to gel
Jeff Allen, Deron Washington, and A.D. Vassalo are now all household names in ACC country. But they weren’t in November when the Hokies lost to Penn State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. As the season went on, as was always the case with Seth Greenberg’s teams at South Florida and now at Virginia Tech, the Hokies played better and better. The team game really began to work and as is always the case with Greenberg’s teams the Hokies played great defense. So at season’s end Virginia Tech wasn’t just one of the 65 best teams in the nation, it was probably one of the 30 best. But Arizona’s early season victories with several returning stars were emphasized in picking a team with a losing conference record for the dance, but Virginia Tech’s early struggles with a group of young players was held against them, even though the Hokies finished with a winning record in the nation’s toughest conference. Go figure.
In summary, I feel Virginia Tech’s exclusion from this tournament is one of the gravest at-large oversights by the committee in recent years. For me it is probably the biggest oversight since Vanderbilt was dropped from the bracket in 2000 right before the selection show because Arkansas had surprisingly won the SEC Tournament and the committee needed to make room for them so lazily they dropped a team from the same league. I have no doubt that Seth Greenberg, one of the finest people in the game, will bring Virginia Tech back to the NCAAs next year, but the Hokies ought to be preparing now for a NCAA game, not a NIT one.