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Dusting off their dancin' shoes

Forecasting the 64 teams that will comprise the NCAA Tournament field is always a tricky proposition. The college basketball gurus weigh in with their first bracket predictions six weeks before the end of the regular season. The list gets amended, with teams tossed on and off the bubble at the drop of a hat - or the drop of a crucial in-conference game.

The Virginia men (19-10, 9-7 ACC) have been perched precariously on the bubble for weeks now, but their overtime win against then-No. 17 Maryland Saturday night - a victory that clinched a third place finish in the Conference - may have stamped their ticket to The Dance.

In addition to the 89-87 win over the Terps, Virginia also swept North Carolina and gave No. 3 Duke all it could handle before succumbing in overtime. No ACC team ever has posted a winning Conference record and been denied a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

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  • "I feel confident that we have it, because we won at Carolina and we have some other good wins," center Colin Ducharme said. "We have a couple of bad losses, but I think our wins outweigh them."

    Cav Coach Pete Gillen did not want to speculate on his team's chances, but he agreed that Virginia is worthy of a spot.

    "I'll leave it up to" the selection committee, Gillen said. "I think we deserve to be in, frankly, with a 9-7 regular season record [in the ACC]. Hopefully we'll get the respect we deserve."

    Maryland Coach Gary Williams said the Cavs merited a bid even before they outlasted his Terrapins, the second-best team in the ACC.

    "You look at some of these [other] conferences and they're talking about teams [being in the NCAA Tournament] that have played no better than Virginia," Williams said. "There's several conferences with one or two really good teams at the top, and then underneath that, who knows how good those teams are? Virginia, in my mind, is definitely in now."

    In the ACC, only Duke and Maryland are NCAA locks. Beside the Cavaliers, Carolina - the team Virginia edged out for third in the Conference - likely will make The Dance.

    A win or two in this weekend's ACC Tournament would all but seal a bid for Virginia, but the Cavs hope it does not come down to that.

    "I don't see how we couldn't get in now," senior Willie Dersch said. "They've got to take three teams in the league, but you never know. Crazy things can happen"


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