When he sits down to plan out future schedules,
Bennett will worry about scheduling matters in the coming months. Right now, he's interested in trying to get his program to New York City and
Before U.Va. (21-11) even starts to think about playing April 2 in the NIT semifinals or April 4 in the NIT championship in the Big Apple, it first has to get past Norfolk State at 9 p.m. Tuesday in Charlottesville.
Like U.Va., Norfolk State (21-11) had aspirations of getting back to the
U.Va. lost three of its last four games and had seven losses to teams that were 113th or worse in the Ratings Percentage Index, while Norfolk State lost an opening-round game in the one-bid
"In some ways, we deserved to be strongly considered (for the NCAA tournament) but in some ways, we couldn't finish out strong," Bennett said. "I said, 'If that's the reason why we don't get in, we had our chances to play our way in and we didn't.'"
Both U.Va. and Norfolk State participated in an NCAA tournament regional in Omaha last season. U.Va. lost to Florida in the second round. Norfolk State became one of six No. 15 seeds in tournament history to beat a No. 2 seed when it upset Missouri in the second round. The Spartans lost to Florida in the third round.
Norfolk State is led this season by 6-foot-6 junior guard Pendarvis Williams, who is averaging 14.2 points per game while shooting 40.5 percent from 3-point range. Norfolk State had two five-game losing streaks during the season, starting 2-5, but ended the regular season on a 15-game winning streak before losing in the MEAC tournament to Bethune-Cookman.
U.Va.'s Joe Harris, who Monday was one of two unanimous selections to the coaches' All-
In addition to Harris, U.Va.'s Akil Mitchell made the coaches' All-ACC third team and guard Jontel Evans, a Bethel High graduate, was selected to the coaches' ACC all-defensive team.
Bennett may think twice before he gets his team involved in a preseason tournament again. As he discovered this season, if his team doesn't win in a preseason tournament, the cost may be greater than the reward.
U.Va. is 18-1 at home this season, and in the midst of a 17-game winning streak at home, but it suffered its only home loss to Delaware in the preseason NIT. The loss kept U.Va. from advancing in the preseason NIT in Madison Square Garden, where it would've played Kansas State and Pittsburgh or Michigan — all three of which would've presented U.Va. with opportunities for games against NCAA tournament-bound, quality opponents.
"That's a risk," said Bennett of playing in preseason tournaments. "You don't beat them, that's going to mess with your non-conference strength of schedule. Going into this thing knowing we'd be at Wisconsin, and all of those deals, we really thought it was a schedule that would be very solid. … If we could have won in the preseason NIT, that changes everything with your numbers."
U.Va., which had a non-conference strength of schedule that was 303rd among 347 Division programs as of Sunday, lost 75-56 to
"I think we've got a lot more fight in us," Evans said. "I think we could've been sounder on both ends of the floor (against N.C. State), but you know, maybe we need this. Maybe this is the wake-up call that we have to be on our 'A' game to play against teams like that."
WHO: No. 8 seed Norfolk State (21-11) at No. 1 Virginia (21-11).
WHEN: 9 p.m. Tuesday.