NCAA selection committee beyond fair to Virginia teams

Virginia’s five NCAA basketball tournament teams have few, if any, gripes.

OK, Old Dominion may be a line under-seeded, and yes, Virginia Tech and Liberty must jet to San Jose, Calif., for the opening weekend, a buzzkill for fans who hoped to attend the Hokies’ and Flames’ first- and, perhaps, second-round games.


But postseason, single-elimination basketball is about matchups, and there the commonwealth’s squads fared well Sunday when the 68-team bracket was unveiled.

As the South Region’s top seed, Virginia (29-3) opens Friday in Columbia, S.C., against Big South tournament champion Gardner-Webb (23-11). The Bulldogs won at Georgia Tech and Wake Forest during the regular season, but they lost at Virginia Tech by 28 points and fell to five opponents ranked below 200th by the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET).


Also striking is the South’s No. 2 seed: Tennessee. The Volunteers are plenty good, but the Cavaliers avoided a possible regional final against Kentucky in Louisville, Ky. The Wildcats are the Midwest’s No. 2.

Basking in Saturday’s Conference USA championship, ODU (26-8) is seeded 14th in the South — I had the Monarchs as a 13 — and headed for Hartford, Conn., for a Thursday date with Big Ten regular-season co-champion Purdue (23-9). Led by All-America guard Carsen Edwards, the Boilermakers rank fifth nationally in offensive efficiency, but Edwards is dealing with a cranky back, and Purdue has lost two of its last three games, both to Minnesota.

Virginia Tech (24-8) earned the best seed in program history, a No. 4 in the East, and faces Atlantic 10 tournament winner Saint Louis on Friday in San Jose. The Hokies announced Sunday that point guard Justin Robinson will return for the tournament after missing 12 games with a foot injury.

Adding Robinson to an already potent lineup should propel Tech past the opening round for the first time since 2007, and with either Mississippi State or Liberty waiting in the second round, the Hokies are positioned to advance two rounds in the tournament for the second time. The first was 1967.

And who could await in the East semifinals in Washington, D.C.? Top-seeded Duke. Yes, please.

Atlantic Sun champion Liberty (28-6) is the East’s No. 12 seed, a dramatic contrast to the Flames’ three previous NCAA appearances. They were No. 16s in 1994 and 2004, and assigned to the First Four in 2013, where a victory would have advanced them to the main bracket, again as a 16.

Liberty’s first-round opponent, Mississippi State (23-10), tied for sixth in the Southeastern Conference, and eight of its defeats were to opponents that made the field. Guard Quinndary Weatherspoon is the first Bulldogs player to make first-team All-SEC since 2012.

Like Virginia, A-10 regular-season champion VCU (25-7) is headed for Columbia, where Friday the Rams, seeded eighth in the East, face Central Florida (23-8). Coached by former Duke All-American Johnny Dawkins, the Knights have one of the college game’s most intriguing players in Tacko Fall, a 7-foot-6, 310-pound senior from Senegal — he averages 10.9 points and a team-best 7.3 rebounds and has blocked 77 shots.


Fall had not seen his mother since coming to the U.S. seven years ago, and the two were reunited earlier this month for his final home game.

VCU and UCF, which tied for third in the American Athletic Conference, are ranked seventh and 36th, respectively, in defensive efficiency. The Rams’ best defender, guard Marcus Evans of Chesapeake, is expected to play after bruising a knee in the A-10 tournament.

The VCU-UCF winner likely will play Duke in the second round. The Blue Devils are the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, followed by Virginia and North Carolina, merited distinction as the ACC joins the Big East in 2009 as the only conferences to produce three No. 1 seeds.

At No. 33 on the NET, North Carolina State was the highest-ranked team excluded from the field, but the Wolfpack was not among the last four teams eliminated. That’s because its non-conference schedule is rated last among Division I’s 353 teams, and the selection committee has said for more than a decade that non-league scheduling is paramount.

The last four teams into the field were Belmont, Temple, Arizona State and St. John’s. The last four out were UNC Greensboro, Indiana, TCU and Alabama. At No. 73, St. John’s is the lowest-ranked team among the 36 at-large selections. In projecting the field, I had UNCG and Indiana instead of Belmont and Temple, so I missed on two of the 36.

As always, the bracket is rife with potential upsets, with Yale over LSU, Murray State over Marquette and Northeastern over Kansas quite enticing.


Possible second-round classics include Michigan State-Louisville, Michigan-Nevada and Cincinnati-Tennessee.

The bracket has yet to marinate, but here’s a quick-take Final Four: Duke, Michigan, Kentucky and Virginia.

Good luck in the pool, everyone.