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However, a failure to win games on the road is a big reason both the Cavs and Iowa are playing in the NIT.
Iowa and guard Devyn Marble (4) are 2-8 on the road this season, while UVa is 3-10 in games away from home.
Iowa’s Aaron White (30) blocks a shot by Stony Brook’s Leonard Hayes (15) in the Hawkeyes’ NIT second-round win.
Virginia's Justin Anderson dunks after getting a pass from teammate Jontel Evans in Charlottesville on Sunday.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
For a couple of men’s basketball teams whose lone previous meeting was in 1997, Virginia and Iowa seem to know a lot about each other.
Maybe that’s because they’re mirror images.
Both teams come from so-called power conferences, both have won 23 games and an inability to win on the road was a main factor each failed to make the NCAA Tournament field.
Virginia (23-11) will be the host team for a third-round National Invitation Tournament game tonight at 7 at John Paul Jones Arena.
“I’m not a guy who looks at numbers,” third-year Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “I go by what I see with my eyeballs and, when I watch Virginia, I see an NCAA tournament team.”
St. John’s coach Steve Lavin had a similar observation Sunday afternoon following a 68-50 loss at Virginia.
“It’s a changing environment,” said McCaffery, referring to the growing number of at-large teams to make the NCAA field from mid-major conferences.
“I thought we had a great case to be in, but we haven’t been a great road team. We’re trying to become one. It’s the reason we’re not in the NCAA tournament, you could argue.”
Iowa (23-13) was 2-8 on the road this season and 3-2 at neutral sites. UVa was 3-8 on the road and lost both of its neutral-site games.
Virginia, as one of four NIT No. 1 seeds, will be playing for the third time at home in its quest to make the NIT semifinals Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
The Cavaliers, who had never played more than 20 home games before this season, will be playing at John Paul Jones Arena for the 22nd time this season. They have won 19 straight home games since Nov. 13, when they dropped a 59-53 decision to Delaware in the NIT Season Tip-Off.
It is the fourth-longest active streak in Division I men’s basketball.
Oddly, two of Virginia’s three road victories came at venues where Iowa lost — at Wisconsin and at Virginia Tech, where the Hokies beat the Hawkeyes 95-79 in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
In early February, Iowa was a 74-70 loser in double overtime at Wisconsin, where UVa had won 60-54 in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
McCaffery is no stranger to the ACC, having played at Wake Forest for one year (1977-78) before transferring to Pennsylvania. He later was the head coach for six seasons at UNC-Greensboro, one of three schools, along with Lehigh and Siena, that he has taken to the NCAA tournament.
“Craig Littlepage gave me my first job,” said McCaffery, referring to UVa athletic director Craig Littlepage, who was the head coach at Penn in the early 1980s.
“I only worked for him my first year but I’ll always be thankful for that. He’s one of my favorite people in the profession.
He’s been terrific for me [in] my entire career.”
McCaffery, a Division I head coach for 16 years, said he has never coached against UVa head coach Tony Bennett.
“Clearly, he has a plan and has been very effective,” McCaffery said.
UVa has held 27 of its opponents under 60 points and ranks fourth nationally in scoring defense.
Virginia shot 54.5 percent from the field against St. John’s, the first time in eight games that it had topped the 50-percent mark, but the Cavaliers have struggled from the free-throw line of late, missing 24 free throws in two NIT games.
“Obviously, if I knew [the reason], we wouldn’t be sitting here talking about it,” Bennett said on his call-in show Monday. “I’m glad we’re getting to the line more. I don’t know if that’s because teams are [saying], ‘Let’s put ‘em on the line.’
“You don’t like leaving points on the table. We’re just saving them for when we need them. How ‘bout that?”
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