Ian Miller’s last-second three sends Virginia tumbling toward the bubble

Jeff Eisenberg

Almost five months after Mike Scott vowed not to cut his hair until Virginia secured an NCAA tournament bid, it's suddenly looking a bit less certain the Cavaliers will accomplish the senior forward's goal.

Virginia wasted a nine-point lead in the final 3 1/2 minutes at home against Florida State on Thursday, falling 63-60 when Ian Miller came around a top-of-the-key ball screen, pulled up and buried a right-wing three with less than a second to play. Miller's shot dropped the Cavs (21-8, 8-7) to just a game over .500 in ACC play and raised questions about the strength of their NCAA tournament resume.

Believe it or not, Virginia's lone win over a surefire NCAA tournament team came way back on Nov. 29 against Michigan in the Big Ten/ACC challenge. The Cavaliers also do have serviceable non-conference wins over Drexel, George Mason and Oregon, but the only notable league win they've posted was a Jan. 7 52-51 home win over Miami.

All of that raises the question why Virginia is still ranked No. 24 in the AP Top 25 or why it hasn't been mentioned in the bubble conversation whatsoever until Thursday night. The Cavaliers almost certainly would still be in the NCAA tournament as maybe a No. 9 or 10 seed today, but their spot isn't so secure that they can afford a loss at Maryland in their regular season finale on Sunday or an opening-round ACC tournament exit next week.

Part of the reason Virginia has now lost four of its last six is that injuries and transfers have depleted the depth that it had in November and December. Starting center Assane Sene hasn't played since fracturing his right foot on Jan. 19, guards Joe Harris and Malcolm Brogdon have been hampered by left foot injuries and reserves K.T. Harrell and James Johnson transferred before the start of spring semester.

The absence of Sene in particular is felt on both ends of the floor. His presence as a shot blocker cannot be replaced and his ability to finish at the rim makes it harder for opposing teams to risk double-teaming Mike Scott on the low block.

Whether Sene is back in time for Sunday's game against Maryland or not, the Cavaliers badly need a win. Otherwise Virginia will enter the ACC tournament with work left to do to make sure Scott's vow not to trim his hair until Selection Sunday doesn't go for naught.