Virginia's inability to receive an invite to the NCAA Tournament had less to do with its high-profile wins and more to do with its notable losses. The Cavaliers will try to avoid one more of the latter Tuesday when they host Norfolk State in a first-round National Invitational Tournament game. With victories over four NCAA Tournament qualifiers (Wisconsin, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Duke), Virginia had a strong case for an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament, but surprising losses (three against the bottom five teams in the ACC and three against the one-bid Colonial Athletic Association) sealed its fate.
Although the Cavaliers have lost three of four overall, they recorded a school-record 17 straight victories at home. The Spartans won the Mid-Eastern Conference regular season title at 16-0, but were upset in the MEAC tournament quarterfinals. Norfolk State staged one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history with a win over second-seeded Missouri last season,
TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPNU
ABOUT NORFOLK STATE (21-11): The Spartans joined Memphis and Gonzaga as the only teams not to lose a regular-season conference game, registering the fourth undefeated season in MEAC history. Norfolk State is no stranger to traveling, playing 16 of its first 19 games on the road - including losses at Illinois and North Carolina State. Leading scorer and MEAC Player of the Year Pendarvis Williams (14.2 points) is 29-of-55 from the 3-point line over his last 12 games. The Spartans have forced their last 15 opponents to shoot 24.8 percent from beyond the arc while 7-0 junior Brandon Goode is averaging 3.2 blocks over his last nine contests.
ABOUT VIRGINIA (21-11): The Cavaliers are making their 13th NIT appearance, having won the tournament in 1980 and 1992. Although Joe Harris (16.9 points) struggled to find his offense a bit down the stretch, he was nearly unstoppable at times during Virginia's 9-0 run at home in conference play. The All-ACC first-teamer averaged 19.8 points in those contests, including a career-high 36-point performance against Duke on Feb. 28. Akil Mitchell (13.3 points, 8.9 rebounds) led the team in scoring and rebounding in each of the team's last four contests and finished fifth in the conference in field-goal percentage. But the Cavaliers are most successful when they play deliberately, thanks to the nation's fourth-best scoring defense.
1. Virginia ranks 21st in the country in 3-point shooting while Norfolk State is the ninth-best at defending the arc.
2. MEAC Coach of the Year Anthony Evans needs one victory to reach 100 for his career.
3. The Cavaliers are 11-0 in games in which their opponent scored 52 or fewer points.
PREDICTION: Virginia 66, Norfolk State 52