The Virginia men's basketball team was disappointed when they didn't hear their name called on Selection Sunday, but head Coach Tony Bennett says they're not dwelling on the missed opportunity. Bennett said Monday that the NCAA ship had sailed, and his team is moving forward.
"We wanted a chance to be in the NCAA, we didn't make that chance," he said. "Now let's be the best NIT team we can be. You know, I said before, if we can get to the NCAA, we'll be the best NCAA team. Well we can't get that, let's be the best NIT team."
The Cavaliers road in the NIT starts with Norfolk State on Tuesday at John Paul Jones Arena. The Spartans finished the regular season 16-0 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, but lost in overtime in the quarterfinals of their conference tournament and earned a No. 8 seed in the NIT.
"They're no stranger to good basketball," Bennett said of the Spartans. "We've seen them two years ago here, watched them in the Paradise Jam the year before play Marquette and beat Ole Miss, and then what they did in the NCAA tournament last year. A number of those players returning give them some valuable experience.
"I believe that every team that's in the NIT now is desperate, because it is, it's such an opportunity to play on," said Bennett. "To be in this tournament, and you know as we said, have the opportunity to try and advance to Madison Square Garden."
The 'Hoos will have to win three games to advance to Madison Square Garden for the tournament semifinals. While playing in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament in November, UVa lost in the regional round at home to Delaware, a loss that prevented them from advancing to the Season Tip-Off semifinals at the Garden. Since then, the Cavaliers have won 17 straight games on their home floor.