While Virginia Tech’s weak ACC schedule (playing the bottom five teams twice and the top six teams just once) didn’t help and the loss to last place miami in the ACC Tournament hurt, it was their out of conference schedule that did them in. Tech played 14 out of conference games and their out of conference strength of schedule was rated 339th in the nation out of 347 teams. Yes, it was that bad. Tech played 16 games out of 31 against teams rated 101 or higher in the RPI, 9 games against teams ranked 200 or higher, and 3 games against teams in the 300s. Basically, in hindsight, the Hokies had almost no chance at making the NCAA Tournament with this schedule unless they had an incredible ACC season (I thought they did with 10 wins) and a bit of a run in the ACC Tournament.
While some of that is Tech’s fault (scheduling teams like north carolina central, maryland-baltimore county, and charleston southern), some of it wasn’t. Historically good teams like iowa were terrible this year, though VT didn’t even schedule them, that was part of the ACC/Big(11)Ten Challenge. iowa finished with a RPI of 210. penn state, who won the NIT last year, ended up with a RPI of 194. georgia actually moved up in the world, finishing just outside the top 100 at 107 after a couple of really bad seasons.
Tech did have two nice games scheduled, neutral site games against temple (who finished with a RPI of 9) and seton hall (61 – but also didn’t make the NCAAs). The Hokies won the seton hall game, but ultimately they needed a win over the much more highly rated owls, who won the A-10 for the third year in a row.
I won’t sit here and bash VT’s schedule. I haven’t questioned it all year in terms of making the NCAAs. I knew it was weak, but I figured by rolling through it at 13-1, Tech just needed to have a good ACC season. Tech had a great ACC season, finishing 10-6.
While I won’t question VT’s schedule, the one thing that stands out to me is – where are the Virginia teams? The Hokies played just two in-state teams out of conference – longwood and vmi. Those two teams also happen to be the two lowest rated RPI teams in the state, at 285 and 309 respectively. Meanwhile, richmond had a RPI of 22 and old dominion at 27. Both made the Big Dance. william & mary had a RPI of 58 (and beat two ACC teams on the road this year that made the dance – wake and maryland) and vcu, Tech’s old Metro Conference rival, had a RPI of 66. george mason had a semi-decent RPI at 157. But that’s four teams in the state that had RPI’s in the top 70.
Obviously you cannot know that a year or two in advance when you set up these schedules, but you do know odu is always one of the better teams in the state, vcu is usually solid, mason made the Final Four four years ago, and richmond has been solid since joining the A-10. The Hokies should be playing one or two of these teams every year. And don’t you think Hokie fans would love having a game in NOVA (mason) or Richmond (richmond or vcu) or Hampton Roads area (w&m and odu) every other year or so? Tech fans would have a chance to see the team close to home and have a chance at a quality road win, a plus in the selection process.
I’m sure we will see a beefed up schedule for the Hokies next year, with a name team or two and solid second tier teams. And VT should get a much better draw in the ACC/Big(11)Ten Challenge based on their higher fourth place finish this year and likely high preseason rating in the ACC next year. Also, Tech will be playing in the 76 Classic in Anaheim, CA in late November (VT didn’t play in a tournament during the season this year). That tourney features two NCAA Tourney teams in oklahoma state and unlv, as well as stanford, depaul, tulsa, cal state northridge, andpenn state (whom VT is supposed to play in Blacksburg next year anyway). But I’d also like to see more Virginia teams on the schedule. It is good for the state and looks like it will be good for the Hokies on Selection Sunday a year from now.