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67 Tournament teams, ranked by the painfulness of a Virginia loss

<p>Coach Tony Bennett and Virginia would face six teams in a national championship run.</p>

Coach Tony Bennett and Virginia would face six teams in a national championship run.

March Madness can be the best time of the year while simultaneously providing one of the greatest moments of grief in a year. I love college basketball, so watching dozens of meaningful games a weekend that feature all the best teams is a dream come true. But I also love the Hoos, and watching their season end is as painful as anything save a death of a loved one.

To prepare myself, I came up with a ranking for each of the other 67 teams in the NCAA Tournament to whom we could lose — forget that the play in games already happened — in order of how grief-stricken I would be if our exit came against that team. Of course, the ideal situation is that we win it all, which is certainly in the realm of possibility. But if we do lose, it had better come against one of the teams near the bottom of my list.

67. Kansas

Losing to Kansas means Virginia is making the championship game and getting beaten by the best team in the country — at least according to the experts. While losing in the championship will be heartbreaking, it would still mean a Final Four appearance and go down as the best season in Virginia basketball history. If that loss is going to come to anyone, I’d prefer it come to the best team on the other side of the bracket.

66 - 60. Cal, Arizona, Wichita State, Oregon, Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma

These are all the good teams on the other half the bracket that generally don’t annoy me as a sports fan. A loss to these teams would be disappointing, but again, it still means we went to the title game, lost to a respectable opponent and still finished out the year with our best season of all time.

59 - 58. Miami, Villanova

While I don’t feel contempt toward either of these schools and recognize both as having high-quality teams, bowing out in the title game against an opponent we’ve already proven ourselves against would sting a bit. Virginia beat Villanova by 11 in December and has two wins against Miami, signs to me that the Cavaliers are clearly better.

57 - 48. Austin Peay, South Dakota State, Hawaii, Buffalo, UNC-Asheville, Southern, Holy Cross, Yale, Green Bay, CSU-Bakersfield

While losing to a no-name school can be embarrassing, if any of these 10 teams made it to the final in Houston, God would have to be on their side. A win would cap off what would likely be the greatest Cinderella story in sports history, and that would definitely soften the blow of losing to an ostensibly bad team. A Final Four run for the Cavaliers and the greatest upset in college basketball wouldn’t that bad of a way to end the season of college basketball.

47 - 38. Connecticut, Iowa, Temple, St. Joe’s, Cincinnati, Baylor, Northern Iowa, Oregon State, VCU, Vanderbilt

These 10 teams are amazingly average Tournament teams. A national title for any would certainly shock the world, but it wouldn’t border impossibility like the previous 10 teams either. A loss to any of these teams in the final would only result in bitterness. With two exceptions (noted later), I’d rather make the title game and lose to any of the teams on the other side of the bracket than not make the title game at all.

37 - 34. Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Xavier

If we make a Final Four run and bow out before the title game, I’d want to come against one of these four teams. All are very good with a ton of upside, and a loss to any of them wouldn’t come as a shock to me. Indiana and Kentucky are led by some of the best individual players in the country in Yogi Ferrell and Tyler Ulis, respectively, while Xavier and West Virginia have great line-ups from top to bottom.

33. UNC

While I have a ton of respect for what the Tar Heels have accomplished this year, I know Virginia is better. According to KenPom, that game was our worst effective field goal shooting percentage of the year, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. If Virginia had just shot like it normally does in the ACC Championship game, they would have easily won, so I’m still not over that loss. If North Carolina ends both our ACC and NCAA Tournament runs, I’ll be going through the what-ifs for years to come. I do think North Carolina is the third best team in the country, but that doesn’t mean I’ll like losing to them any more than some less talented teams in the East region.

32 - 26. Florida Gulf Coast, Fairleigh Dickinson, Chattanooga, Stony Brook, Stephen F. Austin, Weber State

See Cinderella story argument above.

25 - 18. USC, Providence, Notre Dame, Tulsa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh

These are all average Tournament teams, and it would be shame to see such a great run come to an end against any of them.

17 - 16. Duke, Maryland

Like most Virginia fans, to me, Duke and Maryland are two of the three worst programs in college sports. Both schools are obnoxious, dirty, fun to hate and really good at basketball, where Duke does it pretentiously and Maryland does it with little class. While I’m sure the Virginia coaches and players would disagree, I’d rather not make the championship game at all than have to lose to one of these teams.

15 - 13. Utah, Seton Hall, Gonzaga

We’re now in the territory of not making the Final Four, which will be really painful considering the quality of our team this year. Virginia ranks No. 4 in the AP Poll and Sagarin ratings, and No. 2 in KenPom, so anything short of a Final Four run would be falling below Tournament expectations for the third year in a row. This is the point of the list where I’m starting to get angry just thinking about losing to one of these teams. That being said, the best case scenario for a pre-Final Four loss is against one of these three teams, which are all respectable and none of which I have any hard feelings toward.

12 - 9. Fresno State, Dayton, Syracuse, Middle Tennessee

Because not making the Final Four stings a lot more when it’s at the hands of a team you’re much better than.

8. Michigan State

This might be a bit controversial — I know some people who would rather see us exit early than lose to Michigan State in the Tournament for a third straight year. I’m as frustrated by the Selection Committee’s placement of the Spartans as anyone (see my comments from last year), but losing to Michigan State still means an Elite Eight banner in John Paul Jones Arena, which looks a lot nicer than a Sweet Sixteen banner.

7 - 4. Purdue, Arkansas-Little Rock, Iowa State, Iona

While Purdue and Iowa State are much better than Arkansas-Little Rock and Iona (who tragically deprived all of us from fan-favorite Monmouth), if Virginia fails to reach the Elite Eight, I won’t be thinking too much about the team to whom we lost. But the only one of the four I’m at all worried about is Purdue, who gave Michigan State a tough time in the Big Ten Championship game. It actually wouldn’t completely shock me if they pulled the upset against Virginia, but that won’t change how mad I’ll be.

3 - 2. Texas Tech, Butler

To end the season with anything less than a Sweet Sixteen trip would be a massive disappointment, which would be made worse by the fact that neither of these teams is particularly good. The Cavaliers have lost to worse teams this year (Virginia Tech, Florida State and Georgia Tech), but at this point in the season, any result other than a Virginia win would be a massive upset.

1. Hampton

To this day, a No. 1 seed has never lost to a 16 seed. If it happened to Virginia, we’d go down in history for one of the worst reasons imaginable. I don’t know how I’d recover. To add to that, imagine the heat Akil Mitchell would have to take from his little brother. Fortunately, Vegas has Virginia as a 24 point favorite, so there’s nothing to worry about (knock on all of the wood you can find).

Matt Comey is a weekly Sports columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at m.comey@cavalierdaily.com or on Twitter at @matthewcomey.

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