Virginia a No. 1 seed without conference title
A runner-up in the regular season and the ACC tournament, Virginia is still a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Cavaliers are also in the same region with an all-too-familiar postseason foe.
Virginia (26-7) is top team in the Midwest Region, ahead of No. 2 seed Michigan State after the Spartans won the Big Ten tournament championship earlier Sunday.
In the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year, a stretch when the Cavaliers have won 86 games, their last two seasons have ended with losses to Michigan State after winning their tourney openers.
For another postseason matchup, Virginia and Michigan State (29-5) will both have to win three games and get to the regional final in Chicago on March 27 when a Final Four berth will be on the line.
Virginia opens Thursday against Mid-Eastern Conference champion Hampton (21-10) in Raleigh, North Carolina. The winner advances to play Texas Tech (19-12) or Butler (21-10), the mid-major that went to consecutive national championship games in 2010 and 2011.
Michigan State plays its first-round game Friday in St. Louis against Middle Tennessee (24-9). The Spartans have advanced to at least the Sweet 16 seven times in the last eight years, and last season made the Final Four for the third time in that span, with coach Tom Izzo.
No. 7 seed Dayton (25-7) and No. 10 Syracuse (19-13) meet in the other Midwest Region opener in St. Louis on Friday.
There are four Midwest Regional games Thursday in Denver, with No. 3 seed Utah (26-8) playing Fresno State (25-9); No. 4 seed Iowa State (21-11) meeting Iona (22-10); No. 5 seed Purdue (26-8) against Arkansas-Little Rock (29-4); and No. 6 seed Seton Hall (25-8) taking on Gonzaga (26-7).
After finishing the ACC regular season a game behind North Carolina, the Cavaliers advanced to the tournament championship game and lost to the Tar Heels 61-57 on Saturday.
North Carolina is the No. 1 seed in the East Region. The East champion will play the Midwest winner in a national semifinal game in Houston the first weekend in April.
While an ACC runner-up, Virginia had some impressive non-conference wins. There was a three-game stretch in December when the Cavaliers beat No. 9 West Virginia, No. 3 Villanova and No. 24 California — none worse than a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
With Texas Tech getting an at-large berth, and becoming the seventh Big 12 Conference team in the 68-team field, coach Tubby Smith became only the second team to take five different teams to the NCAA Tournament. The other is another current Big 12 coach, Oklahoma's Lon Kruger.
Smith previously led Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky and Minnesota to the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats won the 1998 national championship in his first season with Kentucky.
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