Even after giveaway to Florida State, Virginia's NCAA tournament credentials solid

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Mike Scott and Sammy Zeglinski were having a scrapbook senior night Thursday. Save the tape, print the online testimonials, mount the old-school newspaper clips.

Virginia was not only beating 22nd-ranked Florida State. The Cavaliers were doing it in style with a furious second-half comeback that had John Paul Jones Arena stoked.

Bigger picture and most important: Virginia was about to secure its first NCAA tournament bid since 2007.

Then the Cavaliers played giveaway, squandering an 11-point lead in 2:21. Finally, with the game clock inside one second, Seminoles reserve Ian Miller made a contested 3-pointer from the right wing over Zeglinski to give Florida State a 63-60 victory.

"I'm still trying to comprehend it," Zeglinski said afterward. "I'm still in shock."

Little wonder.

Twice Virginia failed to get the ball inbounds. Akil Mitchell and Zeglinski missed connection on an interior bounce pass that could have produced a layup. Miller scored nine of his 18 points in the final 3:17.

"We just gave that one away," Scott said.

Yes they did.

But this is not time to sulk or lament. This is time to man-up, head north and beat Maryland in Sunday's regular-season finale.

The 24th-ranked Cavaliers (21-8, 8-7 ACC) are better than the Terps (16-13, 6-9). They battered Maryland 71-44 here Feb. 18.

In short, Sunday is a game an NCAA tournament-caliber team should win.

That said, there's no need for hysteria, no need to make Sunday into a win-or-else proposition. Because it's not.

Forecasting the whims of a 10-member committee is hopeless, but even after Thursday's defeat, Virginia compares favorably with other NCAA tournament aspirants.

There are 37 at-large bids available, and having scoured every conference, I can assure you there are, presently, not 37 teams more qualified than the Cavaliers.

Are four losses in the last six games troubling? Sure. And another at Maryland would add to the doubt.

But the committee has made clear in recent years that a team's final 10 or 12 games have become less vital. The "body of work" is paramount, from November to March.

Virginia began Thursday 47th on the Rating Percentage Index updated daily at CollegeRPI.com, and the 46 teams ahead of U.Va. include many conference champions that won't be in the at-large pool. The Cavaliers are 2-5 against the top 50 on the RPI, 7-6 versus the top 100.

Many so-called "bubble teams" have losing records against the top 100.

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