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Is Virginia Tech a Mid-Major Team?

It has become apparent that there are two sets of rules for ACC teams in terms of making the NCAA Tournament: the rules that apply to Virginia Tech, and the rules that apply to everyone else.  The Hokies were snubbed by the NCAA Tournament Committee for the second time in three years and are stuck playing in the NIT for the fourth time in six seasons.  During Tech’s six years in the league they have finished in the top four in the ACC four times, yet have received just one NCAA Tournament bid during that stretch.  How much of an oddity is this?  Let’s take a look.

Anomalies from the last six ACC seasons:

  • 88%: Teams that finished fourth place or higher, including tied for fourth, in the ACC regular season standings have made the NCAA Tournament 23 of 26 times.  It was Virginia Tech in all three cases that a team finished fourth place or better and didn’t make the Big Dance. How can it be we are the only undeserving top ACC team time and time again?
  • 6: In the three seasons where Tech finished in the top four in the league and didn’t make the NCAAs, 6 different teams that finished below the Hokies in the ACC standings made the tournament.
  • 78%: The ACC’s fifth place team (or tied for fifth) has made the NCAA Tournament 7 out of 9 times.  So even the teams finishing just behind the top four are making it more than three-quarters of the time.
  • 3: Only three teams that have finished with a winning ACC regular season record haven’t make the NCAA Tournament.  Two of those are VT (’08 and ’10).  The other is florida state who went 9-7 in 2006 and finished fifth in the league and didn’t get in (hmm, another football school).
  • 57%: 4 of the 7 teams that have finished .500 (8-8) in the league over the last six years made the tournament.  The Hokies, of course, didn’t make the dance when they finished .500 in 2005.
  • 3: Three teams that finished under .500 (7-9) in the league made the Big Dance.  Granted, georgia tech won 3 ACC Tournament games this year, and maryland and nc state won two when they did it.  But it goes to show the lack of consistency and how the rules seem to work against the Hokies from year to year.


  • 90% (26/29) of the ACC teams that finished over .500 in the regular season over the last six years made the NCAAs.  VT represents two of the three that didn’t
  • Remove VT and 96% of the teams (26/27) that finished over .500 made the dance.
  • 83% (30/36) of the teams that finished .500 or better made the dance.  Tech represents half of those six that didn’t.
  • Again, remove VT and it is 91% that made it of teams finishing .500 or better.

While I’m not going to stand here and bash the teams that did make it from the ACC the last six years (because I feel they deserved it just like VT did two of those times), there is one case that sticks out and has me scratching my head in comparison to this year’s VT squad.  That situation is the 2008-09 boston college team.  They finished 22-10 going into Selection Sunday and 9-7 in the ACC regular season.  The eagles won their opening round game in the ACC Tournament, but that was over the 11th place wahoos.  Then they lost to duke in the quarters.  bc did have some bad losses, losing to harvard and st. louis during the regular season.  bc had no real strong out of conference wins.  In conference they played four of the bottom five teams in the league (sound familiar?).  The eagles did beat #1 unc on the road and also beat duke at home.  But is that really superior to this Hokie team?  Just to show the difference of this year and last year, bc was a 7-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Looking at all this, you really start to wonder – does the NCAA Selection Committee think VT is a mid-major school?  Do they think the Hokies are still in the Metro Conference with tulane and vcu and southern miss?  Or in the A-10 with st. bonaventure and gwu and fordham?  Heck, I know a couple of people thought VT should join the Colonial with jmu, odu, mason, and others back in 1994 when Tech was leaving the Metro.  Maybe we did and we’ve just all been dreaming we are in the ACC?

I’m sorry, but ACC teams should not be finishing with winning records and not making the dance.  This is regarded as the most prestigious league in the country, and along with the Big East is consistently one of the top two leagues.  How can a team that wins in this league not get recognition as one of the 65 best in a year?  And as the data above showed, it isn’t a one time thing.  The Hokies have the fourth best winning percentage in the league over the last six years.  Yet every year it is another excuse to keep them out of the Big Dance.  How much does Virginia Tech have to do in the league year after year to get respect inside the conference and nationally?

Certainly Tech has to take some of the blame, too.  The only factor I can figure that has hurt Tech is a continual weak schedule.  Obviously this year it was even worse than in past years, and some of that cannot be blamed on Tech.  As Seth pointed out, penn state was 70th in the RPI last year.  He also pointed out georgia was the SEC champs the year before we scheduled a home-and-home with them, but they were just 4-12 in the SEC that year before pulling off a miracle run in the SEC Tourney including winning 3 games in 2 days (yes, you read that right).

But then Seth talked about how he won’t play teams like odu because it won’t be on national TV like the penn state game was and isn’t as good for the program.  He wanted to know if we would trade a national TV game with penn state to play a local team.  That statement was a bit naive, or maybe just coach-speak.  I’m not looking for VT to drop the penn states or georgias on the schedule, I’m just trying to figure out how playing at campbell this year (not on TV) was better than playing at an odu, richmond, vcu, w&m, or george mason, where Hokie fans throughout the state could go see the Hokies close to home.  And even in the games at VT it would peak fans’ interest more because they grew up near these schools and know them, more so than a unc-greensboro, or umbc (do you even know who that is?), or nc central.  Yes, I realize Tech got some 2-for-1s out of those deals (or 1-for-0s) and that is important, but I find it hard to believe none of the other quality state schools would give VT a 2-for-1.  And if they won’t, then pick two state schools, do a home-and-home for two years, then switch it up.  Heck, richmond has played at wake 5 times in the last 7 meetings.  If you really are an ACC school, the top league in the country, shouldn’t teams want to play you so badly they’ll make some concessions?  Or are we really just a mid-major after all?

The larger issue though is Tech getting top teams to play them.  Aaron McFarling of the Roanoke Times played the role of Captain Obvious today saying Tech needed to learn from this snub and upgrade their schedule.  Having listened to Tech Talk Live with Roth and Head Coach Seth Greenberg on Monday night, clearly improving the schedule is a focus for the team. Tech needs to get some strong programs on the slate.  Over the last three years, VT has played just three out of conference teams that were ranked at the time of the meeting.  Yes, I realize that is misleading since VT played a great temple team this year that wasn’t yet ranked, and a quality xavier team last year that wasn’t.  But let’s face it, georgia and penn state are never ranked.  Tech needs to add some meat.  Maybe that means playing one game on a neutral site against a top team, or better yet working out a home-and-home.  VT has said wvu wants a game in DC and Charleston, WV, which is skewed in wvu’s favor (and I agree).  OK, then figure out something that works (Richmond and Charleston) or just do one game in DC (Morgantown is closer than Blacksburg).

I realize all this is easier said than done, but it is also a lot better than sitting here and complaining year after year about not making the dance.  Well, the latest reason is our schedule.  So let’s go out and make sure that can’t be an excuse next time around.  Let’s start scheduling like an ACC team, a team that expects to play the best and beat the best.  Or at least second tier top teams like gonzaga and xavier (wake played both of them this year).  Maybe that even means making some sacrifices that aren’t in Tech’s favor in terms of scheduling until VT does start getting invited to the Maui Invitationals and Preseason NITs of the world.  We are the fourth best team in the ACC the last six years, let’s show the nation that.  Plus, those games are a lot more fun than seeing if nc central can make it to double digits by halftime.

Posted in HomeComments (24)

Looking at VT’s Undoing: Their Out of Conference Schedule

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.

Posted in 2009-10 Season, Home, NCAA TournamentComments (8)

Hokies’ Bubble Bursts for Third Year in a Row

At least now we know the NCAA Selection Committee is certifiably insane. The third time was not the charm for Virginia Tech, as they did not receive an invitation to the Big Dance for the third consecutive year. Once again they will be relegated to the Junior Prom, the National Invitational Tournament (NIT). The Hokies became the first ACC team to win 10 conference games and not make the tournament, a dubious distinction.

For the second time in three years the Hokies were one of the first teams out, a bitter pill to swallow. Bubble teams that made it included florida, minnesota, utep, and utah state. Tech had the fifth highest RPI of teams that didn’t make it but CBS’s Seth Davis guessed that the Hokies were the first team out. He later asked the head of the committee, Dan Guerrero, about bubble teams and mentioned VT specifically and the first thing Dan mentioned was out of conference strength of schedule.

The ACC got six teams in with duke (1 seed), maryland (4), clemson (7), wake (9), fsu(9), and georgia tech (10). Notice something? Two of those teams (clemson and wake) lost in the ACC Tournament First Round, not even the quarterfinals. VT beat both of them and finished ahead of them. maryland and fsu also lost in the quarterfinals in their first tourney game.

We shall see how the Hokies respond in the NIT. Two years ago that young Hokie team was on a mission to show the committee was wrong and played well, blowing out two teams before losing to ole miss in the quarterfinals. Last year Tech seemed less interested and almost lost in the first round to duquesne before winning in two overtimes. In the second round they got absolutely blasted by baylor, a team that moved all the way up to a 3-seed this year in the Big Dance. With the bulk of this Hokie team represented by juniors, I’m not sure how hard they will play in the NIT. This has to be a huge disappointment, and they may have a “been there, done that” attitude. We shall see what the crowds will be like, too. Tech has gotten great turnouts from the students the last few years who have had the Cassell rocking, taking advantage of the general admission seating.

It is hard to believe a team that won 10 ACC regular season conference games, and 23 games overall, did not make the tournament. But VT’s extremely weak out of conference schedule apparently did them in. As did the loss to the last place miami hurricanes in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals. Tech’s weak in conference schedule (they played the bottom five ACC teams twice and the top six just once) also didn’t help. Still, this is tough to take and I’m sure the team is as sick as I am right now.

Posted in 2009-10 Season, NCAA TournamentComments (12)

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