For Maryland and Virginia, the guessing game is over. Selection Sunday came and went, and both schools were left out of the NCAA tournament.
With a chance to cement their bids for an NCAA berth in the ACC tournament, each team likely came up just short, with UVa dropping their opening game to North Carolina State and the Terps making a run before falling to North Carolina in the semifinals.
Andy Glockner at Sports Illustrated mentioned both schools among his top tournament snubs, as each were likely among the first to be excluded from the field.
Now they’re faced with the ultimate consolation prize: the National Invitational Tournament.
An NCAA tournament team a year ago, No. 1 seed Virginia (21-11) will play host to Norfolk State (21-11) on Tuesday. The Spartans automatically qualified for the NIT by winning the MEAC regular season championship.
Should the Cavaliers move on, they will face the winner of Saint Joesph’s and St. John’s, and will carry home-court advantage up until the semifinal round at Madison Square Garden.
Making their first postseason appearance in two years, Maryland (22-12) earned a No. 2 seed and will host Niagra (19-13) on Tuesday at the Comcast Center. The winner of that contest will face either Denver or Ohio, with a potential matchup with No. 1 seed Alabama looming in the regional final.
Though neither team is likely to be satisfied with their lot tonight, the opportunity to play extra basketball will be beneficial to both. Virginia has several freshman contributors, including Evan Nolte, Justin Anderson, and Mike Tobey, while a young Maryland team will use this occasion to continue Mark Turgeon’s rebuilding effort.
Like Kentucky, Tennessee, and other big-name programs in the NIT field, Maryland and Virginia didn't begin the season with the hope of playing in this tournament, but it presents an excellent chance for each program to grow and progress.
Coaches often preach perseverance, responding to adversity, and dealing with disappointment. It's time to see if these local ACC programs will channel this slight and emerge seasoned and stronger, with hopes for a renewed run at the NCAAs next year.