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.