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Virginia clinches important first-round bye in win over Maryland

Mar 10, 2013, 8:50 PM EDT

Mike Tobey AP

Beating Maryland for the fifth consecutive time, which Virginia managed to do in overtime by the final score of 61-58, wasn’t going to do much for the resume of Tony Bennett’s team.

But the result does guarantee the Cavaliers (21-10, 11-7) a first-round bye in next week’s ACC tournament, which could prove to be very important in their quest for more quality victories before Selection Sunday.

Joe Harris was cold offensively, shooting 4-of-18 from the field, but Virginia received solid performances from Akil Mitchell (17 points, ten rebounds) and Mike Tobey (13 points, six rebounds). Tobey’s layup with five seconds remaining tied the score at 54, sending the game into overtime.

With a loss Virginia would have received the five-seed, which not only means no first-round bye but more importantly would mean a matchup with Virginia Tech in the first round. And while that game would do little for Virginia’s resume if the Cavaliers were to win, a loss would in all likelihood be the final nail in the coffin for a team that already has seven losses to teams currently outside of the RPI Top 100.

Instead Virginia gets the winner of N.C. State/Virginia Tech, with the Wolfpack being the favorite despite being taken to overtime by the Hokies back on February 16 (90-86 Wolfpack win).

In theory that would give the Cavaliers a better shot at the higher caliber opponent in the quarterfinals, but with an N.C. State team that just lost to Florida State being a part fo the equation at the very least Virginia is one win away from the ACC semifinals instead of two.

With their best offensive player struggling to get anything going Virginia found a way to win a game they trailed by as many as 17 points. Beating Maryland doesn’t lock up a spot in the NCAA tournament for Virginia but it keeps them in the conversation, and that’s the least a bubble team can ask for at this point in the season.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.