The closer we get to Selection Sunday, the more popular bracketology becomes. And every year there are a few programs - right or wrong - who feel like they're going to get shafted. This year those programs are Virginia and St. Mary's.
The problem is that reliance on RPI is dumb. It's easy to game. It can be a decent metric, but there are much better systems out there. And while the committee goes out of their way every year to stress how they aren't going to rely on the RPI, they do. It's all over every decision they make.
The solution is to use the better metrics. Ken Pomeroy's and Jeff Sagarin's tend to be the most popular of these.
But guess what? That ain't happening. And herein lies the Virginia dilemma.
Virginia, No. 19 in the nation according to Pomeroy and certainly deserving of a bid, can complain all they want about the RPI. But who cares? Jerry Palm is right when he says there is a bubble and the Hoos have work to do just to get on it. Virginia can complain all they want about injuries or conference standings or whatever else they have legitimate beefs about, but again, none of it matters.
What matters is the RPI - and Virginia didn't plan for it. Their out-of-conference schedule was garbage (No. 324 per Pomeroy) which gave them absolutely zero wiggle room to lose to a team like Old Dominion. It's not like manipulating the RPI is the stuff of witchcraft, people give workshops on this stuff.
So yes, Virginia, you absolutely deserve to be in the Tournament if the season ended today. But the Tourney doesn't play by the smartest set of rules, and you knew that going in to this season. Blame the staff. Blame the AD. They knew the rules and ignored them.
I don't put too much blame on the AD. When he signed UVA up for the preseason NIT, he was expecting games against Kansas State (RPI: 22) and either Pitt (RPI: 30) or Michigan (RPI: 5), not a loss to Delaware in the preliminary round that led to consolation games against Lamar (RPI: 318) and North Texas (RPI: 256). Add those two games to games against Wisconsin and Tennessee (who was expected to be a lot better, which also hurts), and their out-of-conference schedule strength wouldn't be a problem.
I'm not sure if this is typical of all of these preseason tournaments, but if I were an AD, I'd have to think twice about entering the preseason NIT. If the lower half of the draw is so weak that an early round screw up leads to two terrible, RPI-killing matchups, I'm not sure it's worth the risk when you can just schedule a few better games yourself.