If ever there were a team that would make an effective metaphor for this unpredictable, topsy-turvy college basketball season, Virginia would be an obvious choice.
The Cavaliers are the nation's most baffling bubble team because they have a collection of quality wins and horrible losses unrivaled by any of their peers.
In just the past few days alone, Virginia followed up Thursday night's upset victory over Duke by falling 53-52 at lowly Boston College on Sunday evening in a game the Cavaliers led by 11 points with 10 minutes to play. Freshman guard Joe Rahon hit the game-winning 3-pointer as he was fouled with 8.2 seconds left and Virginia could not get off a shot on its final possession.
Normally that would qualify as a surprising loss, but with this Virginia team it's pretty much the norm.
In non-conference play, the Cavaliers lost to George Mason, Delaware and Old Dominion, three CAA teams well outside the RPI top 100. They've also dropped games on the road in the ACC against Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Clemson and now Boston College, giving them seven losses to teams currently outside the RPI Top 100.
That should be a fatal flaw in Virginia's NCAA tournament profile except the Cavaliers have a list of quality wins few bubble teams can match.
They won at Wisconsin and at home against Tennessee in non-league play. They've beaten upper-echelon ACC teams Duke, NC State and North Carolina. Throw in victories over Maryland and Florida State, and that's a 7-2 record against RPI Top 100 teams with two more chances left in the regular season against the Terps and Seminoles again.
How many more wins does Virginia (20-9, 10-6) need to feel confident about its chances on Selection Sunday? Frankly, that's an extremely difficult question to answer at this point simply because the Cavaliers' profile is so unique.
The only ACC team this century to earn 10 or more league wins and not make the NCAA tournament was star-crossed Virginia Tech, which finished 23-8 and 10-6 in 2010 yet landed in the NIT because of a woeful non-league schedule. Even 12 to 14 wins in a major conference are no guarantee of an NCAA bid, however, as Alabama discovered in 2011 and Washington and Oregon learned last year.
If Virginia beats Maryland and Florida State this week to get to 12-6 in ACC play, it would at least have a strong NCAA tournament case regardless of how it fares in the conference tournament. Anything short of that, and the Cavaliers may need to win a game or two in the ACC tournament to feel safe.
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