After Hanging Tough with Miami, is Virginia a Tournament Team?

By Jared Mintz
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The saying “close, but no cigar” really holds little to no drastic meaning in the world of sports. That is of course, except for horse shoes, and depending upon how loosely you translate the phrase, maybe even college basketball.

In a sport where strength of schedule can help decide whether or not you play in the one gigantic playoff system, Virginia is 18-8 with really one more tough game ahead of them, a Feb. 28 home game against No. 6 Duke that is their first and only meeting of the regular season. With that said, they should reach 20 wins and they should finish in the top-four of the ACC, which to date is still one of the power conferences in basketball.

Sure, a win over then No. 19 North Carolina State is still pretty impressive, but considering A) it was a home game, B) NC State point guard Lorenzo Brown left the game in the first half and C) you’re supposed to win a tough conference game here and there, to be Virginia’s only ranked win of the season doesn’t necessarily make them a lock for the tournament.

They came pretty close to getting their second win over a ranked opponent on Tuesday night, having No. 2 Miami with their backs up against the ropes, tied at 50 with about 10 seconds to go. Miami hit the big shot, got the big turnover and then the big win. The good teams always do.

I mean, Virginia was a tournament team last season, they won 22 games which is pretty impressive. What made coach Tony Bennett think scheduling teams like George Mason, Delaware (both of whom they lost to) and Lamar would equate to them making the tournament had they had mild success in their conference? The only two non-conference games in which the Cavaliers faced Big 6 competition were against Wisconsin and Tennessee (a loss and a win), yet somehow ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi had them as one of his Last 4 In prior to the end of Tuesday’s contest.

Deemed to have the 181st toughest schedule, will wins over North Carolina, Tennessee, an injured NC State and hanging tough with Miami be enough to get this potential 20-win team into the postseason?

If Lunardi says yes, the answer’s probably yes, but we’ll need some more time to figure this one out.

For hoops, hip-hop and other random sports and pop culture commentary, follow Jared Mintz on Twitter @JaredMintzTruth

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