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Commonwealth well represented at NCAA Tournament

UVa, Virginia Tech, Liberty, VCU and Norfolk State will all take to Indy

Virginia well represented in the NCAA Tournament
Virginia well represented in the NCAA Tournament (WSLS)

ROANOKE, Va. – Sunday’s NCAA Selection Show yielded rich results for 5 schools across the Commonwealth.

Defending National Champion Virginia was tabbed as a No. 4 seed in the West Region. It was welcomed news for the Cavaliers program that had its ACC Tournament run cut short due to a positive COVID. Their opponent will be the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Champion, No. 13 Ohio. The two will faceoff on Saturday, which is favorable for Virginia, which needs 7 consecutive days of negative tests like all other teams, in order to compete.

Head coach Tony Bennett said Sunday night that the “majority” of the team is still in quarantine due to contact tracing and that much of the preparation for the tournament will be done via Zoom.

“It’s certainly a unique way to prepare for the NCAA Tournament,” Bennett said.

“But, I’m thankful that the NCAA gave our young men the chance because they earned their way into it, the chance to get into this tournament, considering our circumstances. Again, we did follow and have met all the things and I think some other teams are in this boat.”

This will mark just the fourth ever matchup between the Cavaliers and Bobcats, with Ohio leading the overall record at 2-1. For the Bobcats, it’s their 14th appearance in the Big Dance and first since 2012. They are led by Former Bobcats player, Jeff Boals, who’s in his second season leading the program.

In just his second year in Blacksburg, ACC Coach of the Year Mike Young, has guided the Hokies to their 12th NCAA Tournament appearance, fourth consecutive. Virginia Tech earned the 10 seed in the South Region and will tip-off with No. 7 Florida on Friday.

“To me, it’s never been about the reaction to the seed, but rather enjoying the reaction of our kids when they see Virginia Tech pop up on the screen,” Tech coach Mike Young said.

“This has been one most enjoyable groups I’ve had in my 30-plus years as a coach. These guys have always been about the team and they have improved over the long haul of the season. They have weathered every storm thrown at them and I expect them to continue to do the same as we get to Indianapolis.”

“This was my first time being able to participate in the [NCAA] Tournament, so I’m just happy and blessed,” forward Cordell Pemsl said.

“This is an opportunity for us in March to come out and make some noise. Everyone knows at this point that anything can happen. If we play hard and leave it all on the table, we will be able to go down and get some wins.”

The Hokies have a record of 15-6 and was a No. 3 seed in the ACC Tournament before falling to North Carolina. Their lineup features All-ACC Second Team member Keve Aluma and All-ACC Honorable Mention, Tyrece Radford.

Tech leads the all-time series with Florida, 5-4, and the last time the two faced off was in 1991, a 79-57 win for the Hokies in Orlando, Florida.

The reigning ASUN Champion Liberty Flames were tabbed as a No. 13 seed in the Midwest Region and will open play against No. 4 Oklahoma State on Friday. This is the second highest seeding in school history for the Flames. Coach Ritchie McKay led the program to its fifth straight 20-win season, which is a feat never accomplished in school history.

“Our group is humble yet I think they have a sense of confidence that is reflective of how hard they’ve worked and how united they are,” said McKay.

“At the same time, I think there’s also a sense of relief that we know who we’re playing, let’s get to work, start our prep and see what we’ve got this weekend.”

Norfolk State claimed the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference (MEAC) Tournament Championship and punched a ticket into the ‘Big Dance’ for just the second time in school history. The Spartans were last in the NCAA DI Tournament in 2012 as a No. 15 seed when they upset No. 2 Missouri in the first round before falling to Florida in the Round of 32.

Atlantic 10 (A-10) Champions VCU was tabbed as a No. 10 seed in the West Region and will open play on Friday with No. 7 Oregon. This marks the Rams’ 18th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Their most successful run came in 2011 when they reached the Final Four led by head coach Shaka Smart, who has since left for Texas.


About the Author:

Eric is no stranger to the Roanoke Valley. He is a Roanoke native and proud graduate of William Fleming High School.