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On the Outs

On the Outs


Quick, who won the NIT last year? I would have to look it up, too. After Sunday’s NCAA Selection Show, the No Interest Tournament garnered quite a bit more in this neck of the woods. Let the shouts of ‘We’re Number 66’ begin.

Roughly twenty-seven hours after Tyler the Good shot down Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament, the NCAA Selection Committee finished the job by neglecting to include the Hokies in this year’s field. The weekend did not end on a positive note, to say the least.

As always, the field of sixty-five created much fodder for sports’ chattering classes. What would ESPN do if it did not have Dick Vitale filling hour upon hour with his braying?

As always, some of the selections did seem a bit mystifying. Arizona? Oregon? The cries of ‘East Coast Bias’ often heard from the vicinity of the Pacific Rim seemed to carry weight with the selection committee, although Arizona State’s Herb Sendek- remember him? – might not agree. At times you really have to wonder about the thought processes that guide the selection of teams and exactly what is going on in that Indianapolis hotel.

Committee chairman Tom O’Conner provided little insight during his moments in the media glare. He indicated that there is little rhyme or reason to the selections, or coherent strategies for the final 4-5 teams chosen. Let’s see, RPI rankings count for a lot unless they do not, the committee seems unaware that major college athletics is organized around conference groupings, the overall strength of a particular conference means nothing except for those times when the committee determines it does, how well a team finishes is a strong field determinant unless the committee decides that how poorly a team starts counts for more and loud-mouthed coaches questioning the mental state of committee members breaks no ice. Also, while the criteria for selecting teams remains a mystery, it was pretty obvious they were not using the Horseshoes Method.

The main griping around these parts, at least most of it not concentrated along Richmond’s Franklin Street, concerned the failure of the committee to include Virginia Tech among the chosen ones. Actually, there are pretty good reasons Tech will be preparing for somebody called Morgan State instead of Mississippi State in what would have been a very intriguing first round game.

A tournament that celebrates winning requires that teams actually win some games to participate. Tech simply did not win enough. There was the 9-7 ACC record, but that was discounted due to the post-expansion unbalanced ACC schedules that gave Tech the league’s easiest. There was the lousy record against so-called Top 50 teams; 1-7 is not exactly San Antonio material. Then there was the ridiculously easy OOC, against which Tech still managed some very bad losses. There was not a lot to recommend the Hokies to the selection committee.

There was a direct method Tech could have used to ensure inclusion. It is called Winning Some More Games. Over the last two weekends, Tech had two golden opportunities to remove all doubt about its field worthiness. They managed to blow late leads in both, to Clemson and Carolina. Win either and the chances are near 100% Greg Gumball would have mentioned Virginia Tech long before he got to Teams Left Out.

Tech was left out because, while they played well and came close, they lost the two most important games they played. Hit some free throws and grab a rebound and there is no wailing or gnashing of teeth. Deal with the fact that Tech did not win its way into the NCAA Tournament instead crying about the injustice of it all.

That would also apply to Tech coach Seth Greenberg, whose annoying lust for media attention [annoying to me, anyway, as I await the barrage of e-mails attempting to cherney me into believing that Seth is the next John Wooden and an all-around great guy, opinions I respect but disagree with, no matter how many times I am cherneyed] reached epic proportions over the weekend. Seth, who would sell his own grandmother into slavery if he thought ESPN would show up to cover the auction, was at his attention-grabbing best [or worse].

ESPN had barely finished its initial bracketology when Seth was on the phone whining about Tech missing the field and casting the victimization card he so loves to play, whether the circumstances are true or not.

Concentrate on improving your very young team, Seth, not infuriating self-promotion [again, infuriating to me, although I realize that places me in a minority among Tech fans] and sour grapes that belong on a Hoo message board.

The NCAA Tournament begins Thursday shortly after noon. By then, Tech will have already played its first NIT game. They will also have had the benefits of the extra practice time that should prove very valuable down the road for a freshman-dominated team. By the way, the Cousins won last year’s NIT, beating Clemson in the finals. Both teams seemed to have used the experience as a pretty good springboard.

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