How can I say that with such certainty? Because there are sour grapes and then there are blatant omissions. This year, I think if the Hokies would have won the ACC tournament, the NCAA would have invoked some obscure rule to prevent them from getting an automatic bid. That's how certain I am that something is afoot. Let's go over that a bit further.
First of all, the tournament expanded to 37 at-large bids so there were more chances to get in the tournament. On top of that, the "bubble" as it's called was the weakest in history according to most of the analysts who follow college basketball. How weak? The NCAA has chosen a total of six teams with 14 losses or more for at-large bids since 1985. For this tournament alone they selected FIVE. The Hokies had 11 losses on the season meaning that FIVE different teams that lost 3 more games than the Hokies were deemed deserving by this committee.
Secondly, let's pretend we know nothing about the committee's criteria. Gene Smith was the head of the committee and on every post-selection show interview he referenced 15 different criteria that were used in building a "resume" for each team. I don't know how they prioritized those criteria or how they weighted them and neither does anyone not on the committee. That's a problem in itself that should have more transparency, but forget it for a minute. The bottom line is that we have the results of the criteria - Ohio State, Kansas, Duke and Pittsburgh were deemed the 4 best teams in the entire country using these mystery 15 criteria and weighting scheme. Seems to me that any team that beat one of those 4 teams should be a lock for the tournament (assuming it wasn't one of those miracle last-minute shockers by some 20-loss team as a fluke). The committee apparently agreed and showed remarkable consistency here - those four teams had a grand total of 13 losses between them and every team that beat them was in the tournament..........except for Virginia Tech.
Not enough? Virginia Tech is the second team in the HISTORY OF THE NCAA TOURNAMENT SELECTION to have 21 wins, a winning record in conference play and defeating a #1 seed and not making the Big Dance (thanks to Kyle Tucker/Darryl Slater for doing the legwork on that). Stanford in 1988 was the only other time this happened and at that time the Stanford athletic director was having a torrid affair with the wife of the head of the NCAA selection committee.
Ok and here's another hilarious tidbit, this one's about the RPI. The Hokies beat Florida State in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament. It was the closest finish that's possible in a basketball game (the game winning attempt by FSU's Derwin Kitchen, left his hand less than a tenth of a second AFTER the clock expired) and somehow a one point loss on a neutral court dropped the Seminoles from 45th in the RPI to 55th in the rankings. By beating Florida State the Hokies essentially should have had a 4-5 record against teams in the RPI top 50, instead that drop in the ratings by FSU out of the top 50 also dropped the Hokies' record to 2-5. Had FSU dropped to only 50th the Hokies would have had a better record vs. the Top 50 than any of the other six "bubble" teams that apparently got chosen instead, except for USC which went 5-5 against the Top 50.
Then there was this - 88 different college hoops analysts had official brackets posted on the web prior to the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday. 86 of those brackets had the Hokies in the tournament.
And how about this last nugget for you just to ice the cake - the Hokies in the 4 years that these players were in the program have an overall record of 35-29 in ACC play, good for third in the conference over that timeframe and they never once made the tournament (including last year when they became the only team in ACC history to win 10 regular season games in conference and not be invited to the NCAA's).
People are spending all this time picking on the last 4 into the tournament and comparing their resumes to Virginia Tech's. There's always going to be debate especially about the last 4 teams in vs. the last 4 teams left out. I'm not going to get into that. I actually think Georgia getting in instead of Virginia Tech is a ridiculous choice when looking at their two schedules and Georgia got a 10-seed for God's sake. But the point here is larger than that. Especially when you look at the last two nuggets above.
If 83 of the 88 college basketball analysts think the Hokies are in, it's not just based on if they think the Hokies deserve it. It's also because based on what they know about how the committee has chosen in the past, the Hokies should be in. And if the Hokies had the resume over the past 4 years and not made it in one particular season, but made it the other times, I don't think that would be especially heartattack-worthy, or conspiratorial. But taken on the whole, not making it ANY of those seasons, it has become pretty apparent to me that the committee has an ax to grind.
Maybe it's because Coach Greenberg has been outspoken about this. He has derided the committee for leaving VT out in the past. And for him to get to the level this year where he's willing to voice publicly the possibility that there's an "agenda" that leads me to STRONGLY believe that he has been told this by people within the basketball community who would know it.
And that's where John Swofford (ACC Commissioner) had better sit down with Gene Smith and hammer this out. This impacts the ACC's bottom line, it affects exposure for the conference and if there's political games being played, it's up to Swofford to sniff out the real deal and resolve any issues. If that means a public apology from Greenberg so be it. If you told Coach Greenberg that by throwing himself at the mercy of the committee next season, it would give his team a fair shake at getting in, he would be on bended knee, apologizing profusely. If there are other factors involved we need to get them sorted out and like, yesterday.
This is hurting the VT basketball program and it's unfair to the seniors like Allen and Delaney who, particularly this season, poured their hearts out into the game, shorthanded as the team was. It's sickening to think that the players are doing what is necessary to earn a bid and other things outside their control are playing a determining role here. Based on what transpired on Sunday, unfortunately, I don't know what other conclusion can be drawn. VT and the ACC need to address this to prevent it from happening going forward.
I still don't know how if I have the heart to watch the Hokies play in the NIT, but I can tell you for certain that I will be boycotting the NCAA tournament this year, and that hurts as I love this time of year. But it's a small sacrifice compared to what those players are feeling right now.