Beware the Ides: VT's Hokies deserved NCAA's snub

Julius Caesar Act 1, Scene 2:

Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue shriller than all the music cry, "Caesar!" Speak. Caesar is turn'd to hear.

Beware the ides of March.

What man is that?

A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
The ides of March, which the Romans established when they created the Julian calendar, falls on the fifteenth of the month, and thanks to history and Shakespeare, is forever associated with doom and disaster. (“Et tu, Brute?” Perhaps the only thing you remember from tenth-grade Latin class.)

Even though five Virginia schools made it into this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament, there is one for which the ides of March came a couple of days early this year: Virginia Tech.

When Selection Sunday (March 13) came and went without seeing Tech on the bracket, the sports community’s outrage stopped just short of storming the NCAA’s home office. Mere moments after the bracket’s announcement, The Washington Post, ESPN, MSNBC, NPR, The San Francisco Chronicle, and hundreds of other news outlets, blogs, and tweets rallied to Tech’s defense. The Associated Press called the omission the tournament’s “single greatest injustice,” and according to The New York Daily News, the Hokies are “victims” of a system one ESPN analyst labeled “horrible” and “indefensible.”

Jiminy Cricket! I thought I was writing about Khaddafi there for a minute.

Pardon me for asking, but what gives? Did Virginia Tech become a basketball powerhouse while my back was turned? Am I to believe, like so many of Tech’s defenders, that fair-to-middlin’ high major teams like Tech automatically outrank really good schools from smaller conferences, like VCU?

Virginia Tech was ranked 6 in the ACC going into the conference tournament, and while they made it to the semi-finals, there they lost to Duke, a team the Hokies had beaten just three weeks before. And how much weight should a regular season victory over Duke carry when Tech lost twice not just to 5-seeded Boston College, but also to 8-seeded UVA? With such devastating in-conference losses, one might wonder that Virginia Tech was considered for the NCAA tournament at all.

In spite of a more difficult non-conference schedule, the weakness of which was the alleged reason Tech missed the NCAA tournament last year, if it weren’t for that February 26 win over Duke, an NCAA tournament bid would have been a pipe dream for the Hokies. (Don’t even think of bringing up their win over UNC in November. That was UNC-Greensboro, so it doesn’t count as a huge coup.) Every ACC fan knows that a win over Duke is a feat of which any team should be proud, but it’s still just one game out of 33 overall and 16 in-conference.

To all those who criticized the NCAA for overlooking Virginia Tech (and including VCU, which had a really good run), let’s be clear on one point: basketball is not football, and just being a Hokie doesn’t guarantee you a spot at the top of the heap. What happened to Virginia Tech on March 13 was a bitter lesson, but it's one the school needs to learn.

Although judging from all the pouting and griping, neither they nor the sports world at large has realized it yet. Perhaps Hokie Nation and all its supporters should give Julius Caesar another look; when it comes to the ides of March, it’s best to heed the soothsayer.
Juanita lives on a farm in Charlotte County with her husband, son, and many dogs.

1 comment

Poor VPI. They should go back to the old days when they were VPI and there was something honorable about being associated with Virginia Polutechnic Institute and State University. They might be easier to like, .. but then again .... nahhh