The approaching ACC tournament will be the last with 12 teams in it, and the third (since expansion to 12) in which Virginia has earned a Thursday bye. And the third also in which UVA has drawn NC State for its Friday matchup. Oh….and of all the ACC tourneys since then, and many before, the one with the highest stakes for Virginia.
You may remember an earlier column that mentioned UVA’s cold streak in the tourney, which dates back to 1995. Adding two – no, make it three – high-quality basketball teams to the ACC, and the subsequent tourney expansion, makes the goal of finally appearing in the semifinals that much harder in 2014 and beyond. So 2013 might represent UVA’s best chance for a long time. In the sense that the goal of winning on Friday is a worthy goal in and of itself, UVA fans might be pulling for the Hokies to upset the Wolfpack.
But in a bigger-picture sense, UVA probably needs NC State to advance – and then needs to beat them. Not for a long time have Virginia’s NCAA tourney odds hung so precariously in the balance entering the ACC tournament. UVA has had better teams and worse teams, but it’s hard to land on that Goldilocks spot that makes them the perfect bubble team. Joe Lunardi’s bracketology, as of this writing, has the Hoos as the very last team in.
That makes the ACC tournament as important as it’s ever been for Virginia. Beat NC State and they’ve probably – probably – punched a dance ticket. No guarantees, but NC State is likely dancing, and beating them twice in a season would make a strong case given UVA’s other big wins (Duke, UNC, Wisconsin.) Lose to NC State and UVA opens the door very wide for another bubble team such as Baylor or Ole Miss to roll past them. Someone without so many absurd losses on their resume.
So UVA fans probably will approach Friday’s game with some trepidation. (That might disappear if Tech somehow knocks off NC State, but probably not all the way.) History is not on UVA’s side – those other two times where NC State has been UVA’s Friday opponent after a bye, the Pack have won. Bad news. UVA is hoping the third time is the charm, and maybe, just maybe, instead of being satisfied with winning on Friday, UVA can win on Sunday and make all the bubble talk moot.
Brendan’s bio: I’m just this guy … this ordinary Virginia graduate and fan who woke up one day realizing his opinions on everything UVA could no longer be contained in one space. Thus was born From Old Virginia, a labor of love where you can find obsessive opinionating on Virginia football, basketball, lacrosse, baseball, and whatever else when the mood strikes. And if that’s still not enough for you, go to the Twitster and follow @MaizeNBlueWahoo for the dumb stuff that pops into my head when I’m watching the Hoos.