Following the loss to N.C. State in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals on Friday, Virginia coach Tony Bennett jokingly compared his team’s NCAA Tournament resume to the gray-bearded fella on the commercial for Dos Equis beer.
“We’re the Dos Equis bubble team,” Bennett said. “We’re the most interesting bubble team in the world.”
Sunday night, Virginia will find out if being interesting translates into its second straight trip to the Big Dance.
The Cavaliers (21-11), seeking an at-large tournament bid, have mystified bracketologists with their combination of good wins and bad losses this season.
As of Saturday night, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had Virginia as one of his last four teams out of the tournament, though Maryland’s loss to North Carolina in the ACC Tournament semifinals earlier in the day seemed to benefit UVa. The Terrapins had been hoping to “steal” an NCAA bid, but now figure to have an uphill climb given their two regular-season losses to Virginia.
If UVa managed to squeak in, it could very well be sent to Dayton, Ohio for one of the opening round play-in games, known as the First Four.
The general feeling is that UVa, losers of five of its last eight games, could be headed to the NIT, but with the landscape changing by the hour, there’s no way to predict what will happen with any certainty.
Virginia’s last appearance in the NIT came during the 2005-06 season when Dave Leitao was coach.
UVa could host a game on Tuesday or Wednesday night at John Paul Jones Arena. Richmond, which lost in bizarre fashion to Charlotte in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament, has been rumored as a potential opponent.
The semifinals of the NIT are held at Madison Square Garden in New York City on April 2, with the championship two days later. Virginia would have to win three games to make it there.
If the Cavaliers did get to the Big Apple, it would be an ironic ending to the season. Back in November, they were expecting to play in the preseason NIT at the Garden, but lost at home to Delaware. The defeat was an absolute killer from an RPI and strength-of-schedule standpoint and has helped put UVa in its present predicament as “the most interesting bubble team in the world.”