Yet when the NCAA unveiled its 68-team bracket Sunday, Middle Tennessee State celebrated. Virginia did not.
Outraged, Cavaliers faithful? You shouldn't be.
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As the above numbers suggest, you can make a case for Virginia (21-11). The Cavaliers defeated Wisconsin, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Duke, and finished a solid 11-7 in a less-than-vintage ACC.
But Middle Tennessee State, the last of 37 at-large teams selected according to the NCAA's seeding list, is not without merit.
The Blue Raiders (28-5) went 19-1 in the Sun Belt Conference before stumbling in the semifinals of the league tournament against Florida International. They defeated Southeastern Conference tournament champion Ole Miss — their other NCAA field win was over Sun Belt champ Western Kentucky.
Middle Tennessee State also scheduled wisely and ambitiously. Games against Florida, Akron, Belmont and Vanderbilt helped give the Blue Raiders a No. 9 non-conference schedule rank, according to the Rating Percentage Index.
Yet even with a dreadful non-conference schedule rank of 303, Virginia had every opportunity to trump Middle Tennessee State's credentials, and those of LaSalle, Boise State and Saint Mary's, the other members of the "last four in" club.
The Cavaliers shouldn't have lost to an Old Dominion team that finished 5-25 and was without two starters, even with Jontel Evans sidelined by a foot injury and Joe Harris weakened by the flu. They shouldn't have lost at home to Delaware in the NIT Season Tip-Off, denying themselves marquee games in Madison Square Garden against Kansas State and Pittsburgh or Michigan.
Perhaps as important, after defeating Duke on Feb. 28, Virginia shouldn't have lost three of its last four. That stretch included road setbacks at Boston College and Florida State, and the Cavaliers' most-lopsided defeat of the season, 75-56, to N.C. State in Friday's ACC tournament quarterfinals.
Hardly an impressive audition there.
"They had a non-conference strength-of-schedule in the 300 range, seven losses outside the top 100, four of which were outside the top 150," selection committee chair Mike Bobinski said of Virginia. "It was a difficult resume for us to get our arms around, as unique a team sheet as I've ever seen in my five years on the committee. We spent a lot of time trying to sort it out."
Virginia's exclusion comes as little surprise. The selection committee has a history of rewarding so called "mid-major" programs that play credible schedules and perform well on the road — Middle Tennessee State is 11-3 on the road, Virginia 3-8, albeit against far stiffer competition.
Moreover, the panel is prone to punish teams from the big-six conferences for tame non-conference schedules. See Virginia Tech for Exhibit A.
Also, the ACC is without a No. 1 regional seed for the first time since 2003. The No. 1s are Louisville, Indiana, Kansas and Gonzaga, making Miami, the No. 2 seed in the East Regional, the first outright ACC regular-season champion and tournament winner denied a top seed.
The Hurricanes and Duke, the Midwest's No. 2 seed, would have made stronger No. 1s than Gonzaga.
Some will blame selection committee member Ron Wellman, Wake Forest's athletic director, for not lobbying strongly enough for the conference. But NCAA rules mandate that panel members recuse themselves from discussions involving teams from their league.
If Virginia and/or Miami fans want to blame someone, address those cards and letters to West Coast Conference commissioner Jamie Zaninovich, the committee member charged with monitoring the ACC.
North Carolina and N.C. State both drew No. 8 seeds, meaning if they advance, they'll likely encounter No. 1s. The Tar Heels would play coach Roy Williams' former employer, Kansas, while the Wolfpack would play Indiana.
The three state teams to make the field should have no beef with their seeds. Liberty and James Madison were both shipped to Dayton, Ohio, for the First Four. The Flames face North Carolina A&T, while the Dukes play Long Island Brooklyn.
Win there, and Liberty would draw top overall seed Louisville. If JMU advances, it would draw Indiana.
VCU, which lost to Saint Louis in Sunday's A-10 tournament final, is the No. 5 seed in the South Regional and heads to Auburn Hills, Mich., and a dicey matchup with Mid-American Conference champion Akron. Rams coach Shaka Smart and his Zips counterpart, Keith Dambrot, were assistants together at Akron in 2003.
In 2011, Dambrot, who coached LeBron James in high school, told the New York Daily News: "I've only seen two sure things in my time: LeBron as a player and Shaka as a coach."
In the NCAA tournament, there are no sure things. Good luck in the pool, y'all.