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Virginia can’t let a tournament opportunity slip away

Cavs face Maryland with promising tourney implications on the line

- - Saturday, March 3, 2012

Virginia's status in two tournaments is on the line Sunday at Maryland.

Whether the Cavaliers will get a bye in the ACC tournament is a matter of mathematics: win today, earn the No. 4 seed and play Friday; lose today and play Thursday.

The other situation, the NCAA tournament, is a little more complicated.

"I can't tell you what exactly is required," Wahoos coach Tony Bennett said. "I know we've got to play well, and we're capable of it."

Comparisons to last year's Virginia Tech team are not unwarranted. U.Va. has a 21-8 overall record with an RPI of 48. The Hokies finished the 2011 regular season 21-11 with an RPI of 62.

However, with a weaker overall field this year, general consensus is that the Wahoos will get a bid into the NCAA field even with a loss at Maryland (16-13). What they couldn't handle would be losing to a cellar dweller on Thursday.

Regardless of tournament implications, the Cavaliers would like to pick up a road victory to stop a two-game slide and build some momentum with their reduced roster.

Guard Malcolm Brogdon (foot), who had been the team's sixth man, has joined Assane Sene (ankle) in the "not likely to return" category. Only seven scholarship players remain, and starter Joe Harris is playing despite a broken bone in his left hand.

Fatigue hurt the Wahoos in a last-minute collapse against Florida State on Thursday, but senior forward Mike Scott isn't going to use it as an excuse.

"Obviously we had enough to beat Florida State and just about beat UNC," he said of the reduced lineup. "We're just trying to fight through our injuries."

U.Va. led Florida State by 11 with four minutes to play before losing on a last-gasp 3-pointer. Disappointment of that nature has the potential to sting long-term, but Virginia insists that won't be the case.

It helps that today should be a strong atmosphere at Comcast Center in College Park. This is Maryland's senior day and last year U.Va. won 74-60 in the same situation.

Add in a 24-point beatdown a month ago, and the Terps have plenty of motivation.

"We can't sleep on them just because we beat them big here," Scott said. "They're going to be ready. It's their senior night, and they'll have the crowd amped like we did here."

Winning and picking up the ACC bye would give some much-needed Thursday rest to the depleted lineup.

The Cavaliers say they don't want to merely limp into the conference tournament. They want to feel good about their chances, and that only comes with victories.

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