Five teams from Virginia made the NCAA tournament, but Virginia Tech wasn’t one of them, and Georgetown qualified for the fifth time in the last six seasons.
Coach Seth Greenberg’s Virginia Tech Hokies were robbed for the third time in four seasons, failing to make the NCAA tournament despite a winning record in the Atlantic Coast Conference. As the end of the selection show drew near, the unthinkable was happening. A winning record in the ACC is usually a lock for the NCAA tournament.
The Hokies also failed to make the tournament in 2008 and 2010 after having winning records in the ACC. The Hokies (21-11, 9-7 ACC) lost their final two regular season games but redeemed themselves by defeating Georgia Tech and Florida State in the ACC tournament. The Hokies also had a signature win against top-seeded Duke, a team that had only four losses in 34 games.
The Hokies beat NCAA tournament invitees Florida State (twice) and Penn State, although it appears that a March 5 loss to Clemson may have been the difference between the Hokies and Tigers getting in. Clemson also had a 9-7 conference mark. Hokie seniors including guard Malcolm Delaney (18.6 points per game) and forward Jeff Allen (13.6 points and 10 rebounds) will leave Virginia Tech never having played in the NCAA tournament.
Teams from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and Virginia that made the tournament include Georgetown, George Mason, Hampton, Old Dominion, Richmond, and Virginia Commonwealth.
The sixth-seeded Georgetown Hoyas (21-10, 10-8 Big East) will face the 11-seed, the winner of the matchup between USC (19-14, 10-8 Pacific 10 Conference) and Virginia Commonwealth (23-11, 12-6 Colonial Athletic Association) Friday in Chicago. The Hoyas lost their final four games of the season after Chris Wright broke his hand, but the senior point guard has been cleared by doctors to play in the NCAA tournament.
Wright averages 13.1 points and 5.4 assists per game. Senior shooting guard Austin freeman leads Georgetown with 17.9 points per game. Last year the Hoyas suffered a major upset to 14th-seeded Ohio. The Hoyas are in the NCAA tournament for the fifth time in the seven seasons John Thompson III has been their coach.
The VCU Rams making the tournament was somewhat of a surprise. Senior forward Jamie Skeen leads the Rams with a 15.3 per game average. The Rams have now made the tourney for the third time in the last five years. In 2007, VCU upset sixth-seeded Duke.
The 12th-seeded Richmond Spiders (27-7, 13-3 Atlantic 10 Conference) will face fifth-seeded Vanderbilt (23-10, 9-7 Southeastern Conference) Thursday in Denver. Richmond is going into the NCAA tournament on a roll after defeating Dayton in the A-10 championship Sunday 67-54. Senior forward Justin Harper leads the Spiders with 17.8 points per game. Richmond has won seven consecutive games and made the tourney for the second year in a row.
The Spiders have a history of pulling upsets in the tournament. In 1984, they took down number five seed Auburn. In 1988 the Spiders defeated fourth-seeded Indiana. In 1991, Richmond pulled one of the tournament’s greatest upsets, shocking second-seeded Indiana, and in 1998 the Spiders beat third-seeded South Carolina.
Old Dominion (27-6, 14-4 Colonial Athletic Association) won the CAA championship game over Virginia Commonwealth and comes into the tournament on a nine-game winning streak. The 9th-seeded Monarchs will take on 8th-seeded Butler (23-9, 13-5 Horizon Conference), last year’s runner up, Thursday at the Verizon Center in Washington. Senior forward Frank Hassell leads the Monarchs with 15 points a game. The trip to the big dance is the second in a row for ODU, which upset sixth-seeded Notre Dame 51-50 last March.
The eighth-seeded George Mason Patriots (26-6, 16-2, CAA) will take on 9th-seeded Villanova (21-11, 9-9 Big East) Friday in Cleveland. The Patriots won the CAA regular season title and made the NCAA tournament for the third time in the last six seasons. The Patriots are led by senior guard Cam Long who scores 15.3 points per game. Coach Jim Larranaga has a deep bench to work with, and will try to recapture the magic that saw the Patriots make it to the Final Four in 2006.
The 16th-seeded Hampton Pirates (24-8, 11-5 Mid Eastern Athletic Conference) will take on top-seeded Duke (30-4, 13-3 ACC) Friday in Charlotte, North Carolina. Hampton won the MEAC’s automatic bid after defeating Morgan State in the championship game. Junior guard Darrion Pellum leads the Pirates with 17.9 points a game. Hampton comes into the tournament on a five-game winning streak. In 2001, Hampton defeated second-seeded Iowa State in one of the greatest upsets in NCAA tournament history.
As expected, Maryland (19-14, 7-9 ACC) didn’t make the NCAA tournament, but shockingly, the Terrapins didn’t even make the NIT and won’t play a postseason tournament for the first time since 1993.
Matchups at the Verizon Center Thursday include:
(3) Connecticut (26-9) vs. (14) Bucknell (25-8)
(6) Cincinnati (25-8) vs. (11) Missouri (23-10)
(1) Pittsburgh (27-5) vs (16) UNC Ashville (19-13) or Arkansas-Little Rock (19-16)
(8) Butler vs (9) Old Dominion
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