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Virginia men's basketball prepares for 5 games in 11 days

It's a story line Virginia fans will hear frequently the next two weeks, so let's start looking at it today. The Cavaliers (14-7, 5-3 ACC) play five games in the next 11 days. Four are on the road. Three come against teams with winning records in the ACC, with the other at Clemson, which is 4-5 in the ACC but considered one of the conference's more dangerous teams.

It is not hyperbole to suggest that the way Virginia emerges from this stretch on the morning of Feb. 24 will dictate whether NCAA tournament discussion is legitimate.

"A lot of people are saying we were a surprise this season and we've done really well, but we don't feel like we're done. We don't feel like we've had a successful season yet," junior forward Will Sherrill said after Wednesday morning's practice. "This stretch is going to show ourselves, and show the ACC, what we're made of. I think it's going to be a great challenge for us."

Although every game is important, the crucial games are at Virginia Tech, vs. Florida State and at Miami.

It's fair to consider the Hokies a bubble team at this point because of their uninspiring non-conference schedule. Virginia Tech already beat Virginia in John Paul Jones Arena, so it would be almost impossible for the Cavaliers to make the NCAA tournament over the Hokies if Virginia suffered two losses to its rival.

The Florida State game is important because Virginia must protect its home court. Any ambitions of finishing the stretch with at least three win almost certainly needs to include the home game.

I also point out the Miami game because the Hurricanes have struggled this season and did not match up well against Virginia when the two teams met on Jan. 16. It's hard to go into places such as Maryland and Clemson and leave with a victory, but a road game at Miami is not as imposing.

However, it's fair to say every game is important in the next two weeks. Virginia has a plus-two margin in its ACC record, but that can easily be spoiled during this stretch. Whether Virginia emerges with a winning record or a losing record -- there's no possibility of finishing .500 through 13 games -- could determine the Cavaliers' postseason prospects.

"I think as we get into it, we'll realize that," Sherrill said. "As big as this stretch is, you can't think of the magnitude of five games in 11 days. We can't do anything about playing Florida State today. We got to focus on Virginia Tech."

By Zach Berman  |  February 10, 2010; 12:28 PM ET
 
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