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What Virginia Tech needs to do to get in NCAAs

Thanks to one of the nation's easiest nonconference schedules, Virginia Tech has no margin for error if it wants to make its first NCAA tournament since 2007. That means the Hokies will likely need to finish 6-2 in their remaining ACC games.

"You’re evaluated on your entire schedule," Jerry Palm, an independent analyst who runs, said Wednesday in a telephone interview. "And when you take the first two months off -- and this is a team that took the first two months off -- you have to be really impressive those last two months. Believe me, this team rolls in .500, they're going to the NIT; there isn’t any doubt."

Virginia Tech's nonconference schedule ranks 340th in the Rating Percentage Index, which would make it the lowest-rated nonconference schedule to ever make the NCAA tournament, Palm said. There have only been at least 340 teams for the past two years.

The Hokies' lone win over a team in the top 50 of the RPI came Saturday, when they defeated Clemson in Blacksburg.

But Palm cited a few recent examples of the teams with the very poor nonconference schedules to get an NCAA tournament bid.

In 2006, George Washington's nonconference schedule was ranked 323rd, but it's 26-2 overall record compensated and it was awarded a No. 8 seed. In 2004, Air Force was a No. 11 seed but "easily the worst team to ever get an at-large bid," Palm said. Air Force's nonconference schedule was ranked 315th and its final record was 22-6 out of the Mountain West Conference.

For Virginia Tech, Palm said, that means it likely must win all of its remaining home games and its two road games against the conference's weaker opponents, which includes North Carolina State on Wednesday night.

The Hokies' remaining home games include Virginia (RPI No. 91), Wake Forest (13), Maryland (42) and N.C. State (106). Other than Wednesday's game in Raleigh, the Hokies travel to play at Duke (4), at Boston College (101) and at Georgia Tech (23).

"I would say the primary thing is take care of business at home," Palm said. "They’ve got winnable home games. And then you need to beat the teams you should beat on the road. That leaves the more excusable loses at Duke and at Georgia Tech."

Palm estimated that Virginia Tech would need to finish 6-2 in conference play, which would give them a 24-6 overall record, in order for it to make the field of 65. The said it would be important for the Hokies to play consistently down the stretch and to not lose to league bottom feeders, like N.C. State.

"This could be the worst nonconference schedule to make a tournament," Palm said of the Hokies' chances. "There’s not a lot of margin for error when you play that schedule."

By Mark Viera  |  February 10, 2010; 2:15 PM ET
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It is certainly a weak non-conference schedule and I don't think with the loss of AD Vassalo and Hank Thorns that Greenberg had any intention of playing a very difficult early season schedule. But, there is also some luck or lack of luck on a year to year basis with "strength of schedule." Claiming that the Hokies took "the first two months off" treats the situation as if Greenberg knew how every other team in America would perform before creating the schedule. I don't think you expect Iowa, Penn State, Seton Hall and Georgia to all be at the bottom or near bottom of their conference. If you take every team's schedule from this year and use the opponents results from last year, where does the Hokie's non-conference schedule rank? I'm sure it's not top 100, but probably not 340th either. I think 10-6 in the ACC and a win in the ACC tournament should get a bid. Go Hokies!

Posted by: jogill | February 10, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

9-7 in the ACC should be a lock. All this talk about weak non-conference SOS. How about play in the #1 conference according to and #2 (barely) in the Sagarin ratings. We only lost one game out of conference and it was to a top 25 RPI team. we don't have any losses out of the top 100 like other teams. RPI shouldn't mean anything anyway, 75% of it is beyond a teams's control. It's stupid.

Posted by: nickel014 | February 10, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

I think the RPI is a useful tool, but I think it needs to be redesigned (by someone much smarter than I am). If you are primarily using it to choose the top 50 or so at-large teams in the country, then it should consider any team outside of the top 100 (maybe) as the same value in the strength of schedule. If two teams are being considered for an at-large bid with comparable conference results and team A has gone 10-0 playing teams 301-310, and team B has gone 10-0 playing teams 201-210, there would be absolutely NO evidence that team B was a better team, yet team B's RPI would be much higher giving them greater, yet un-due, consideration for the at-large bid.

Posted by: ForTheRecordPlease | February 10, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

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