Teel Time: Continued success could land U.Va. in Raleigh for NCAA tournament

The NCAA has staged early-round men’s basketball tournament games in North Carolina eight times in the last decade. In six of those eight seasons, two ACC teams were bracketed to that venue.

With the tournament returning to the state this March — Raleigh’s PNC Arena is hosting the rounds of 64 and 32 — after a rare absence in 2013, it’s fair to wonder whether Virginia might land in a building familiar to its players and unusually convenient for its fans.

The Cavaliers (16-5, 7-1) are not among the top 25 in the media or coaches poll, but they were No. 22 in the NCAA’s Rating Percentage Index released Monday and are 21 in the RPI updated daily on ESPN.com. That makes Virginia not only tournament-caliber but also a team that could, with continued success, merit geographically favorable placement.

Other ACC teams in that realm are Syracuse, Duke and Pittsburgh. Barring marked decline, the undefeated and second-ranked Orange appear ticketed to open tournament play in Buffalo, N.Y., feeding to the East Regionals at New York’s Madison Square Garden, the first NCAA games in the Garden since 1961.

Per bracketing principles, if Syracuse is the ACC’s highest-seeded team, no other squad from the league would be a top-four seed in the East. But under the pod system that allows four-team groups from two different regionals to share an early-round site, No. 18 Pitt also could play in Buffalo.

Similarly, Duke and Virginia could land in Raleigh. Since a skittish start, the 17th-ranked Blue Devils (17-4, 6-2) have won five straight, including an 80-65 victory Monday at Pitt, and like Syracuse to Buffalo, they seem destined for Raleigh.

The Cavaliers would like to join them, perhaps as a high seed in the South Regional, which feeds to Memphis), or the Midwest, which feeds to Indianapolis. The West is set for Anaheim, Calif.

Virginia certainly knows PNC Arena, which serves as North Carolina State’s home court. The Cavaliers routed the Wolfpack there 76-45 earlier this month.

Plus, Raleigh is an easy trip for much of Virginia’s fan base, about 225 miles from Charlottesville. The other seven early-round sites are not.

They are Buffalo, Milwaukee, Orlando, Spokane, Wash., San Antonio, San Diego and St. Louis. Buffalo is the next-closest venue for the Cavaliers, and it’s twice as distant as Raleigh.

Virginia enjoyed nearby early-round NCAA assignments in 1976 (Charlotte), ’86 (Greensboro) and ’90 (Richmond). The latter appearance marked Terry Holland's final game as U.Va.'s coach, a 63-61 second-round loss to sixth-ranked Syracuse and Derrick Coleman.

Conversely, the Cavaliers were shipped three times to Salt Lake City (1987, ’91 and ’94) and once each to Syracuse (1993), Sacramento ('94) and Omaha, Neb. (2012).

Here are the recent early-round NCAA tournament venues in North Carolina and the ACC teams that played there:

Greensboro 2012: Midwest No. 1 seed North Carolina and South No. 2 Duke.

Charlotte 2011: West No. 1 Duke and East No. 2 North Carolina.

Greensboro 2009: South No. 1 North Carolina and East No. 2 Duke.

Raleigh 2008: East No. 1 North Carolina. (West No. 2 Duke was sent to Washington, D.C.)

Winston-Salem 2007: East No. 1 North Carolina and East No. 7 Boston College.

Greensboro 2006: South No. 1 Duke. (East. No. 3 North Carolina was sent to Dayton, Ohio.)

Charlotte 2005: South No. 1 Duke and East No. 1 North Carolina.

Raleigh 2004: South No. 1 Duke and East No. 4 Wake Forest.

Suffice to say, my budget-conscious boss would love to see Virginia in Raleigh.

I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at dteel@dailypress.com. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP

Here’s a link to my Daily Press print columns.

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