His team beat Maryland and Wake Forest, a pair of NCAA tournament qualifiers from the ACC, on their home courts. His Colonial Athletic Association team also finished the regular season with a top-60 Rating Percentage Index ranking, better than six other ACC teams.
So you know where William & Mary coach Tony Shaver was coming from when he said it was an "injustice" that his squad didn't receive a first-round home game in the NIT.
But when he learned his fifth-seeded Tribe (22-10) would be traveling to North Carolina to play the fourth-seeded Tar Heels (16-16) tonight in Carmichael Arena (9:30 p.m., ESPN), he had to laugh.
"I sat on the bench there a lot over the course of my playing days, so I'll be sitting on the bench again," said Shaver, a former Tar Heels walk-on player (1972-75) who called UNC stars Phil Ford and Walter Davis teammates.
That was long before the Smith Center, which is undergoing renovations, was built, and Carmichael Arena was North Carolina's home court.
"I didn't play much while I was there, but it will be exciting to go back," he said.
It's especially exciting for Shaver, because he's returning with a team fully capable of beating his alma mater. Shaver, in his seventh year at William & Mary, has mixed the team-first principles he learned under Dean Smith with a "Tribe Hybrid" offense featuring precise cuts that set up what UNC coach Roy Williams called a "mind-boggling" number of 3-point attempts.
Almost 48 percent of the Tribe's field-goal attempts come from behind the 3-point arc. Led by senior guard David Schneider (15.3 ppg), they make 35 percent of them. That's a concern for the Tar Heels, considering they finished second-to-last in the ACC in 3-point percentage defense (34.2 percent).
"They play to the strength of smaller guys; maybe it doesn't pass the 'look' test [of players] that go to some other schools, but they play to their strengths," Williams said. "Defensively, they play zone, they match-up ... it's unusual. Trying to get ready for something like that, it's hard to do, too."
It's harder, still, when the Tar Heels weren't exactly expecting this matchup.
UNC senior Marcus Ginyard said he wanted his team to keep playing and is excited that it gets to play at historic Carmichael. But after a disappointing season, he said he didn't really expect to earn an NIT bid, much less host a game.
The Tar Heels finished the season with a .500 record and a No. 92 RPI ranking, according to collegerpi.com. Down the stretch, UNC did the opposite of strengthening its NIT résumé, closing the regular season with a 32-point loss at Duke and blowing a 10-point halftime lead to Georgia Tech en route to losing in the first round of the ACC tournament.
So when the team, gathered in the locker room after Sunday night's practice, saw its name come up in the final quadrant of the NIT's bracket, "we were very surprised, very relieved to continue to get a chance to play," Gin yard said.
NIT committee chairman C.M. Newton said Sunday night that UNC's schedule (not its name or potential ticket sales) was the determining factor for why it made the NIT field and got the opportunity to host a game.
"The thinking was that some of the teams that hadn't played such a demanding schedule wouldn't have had as good a record as North Carolina had, had they played that schedule," Newton said.
The Tribe might have, though. It ended up finishing third in the Colonial Athletic Association, had a 10-game winning streak early in the season and was even earning votes in both national polls. Those were reasons William & Mary thought it at least would get to open NIT play at home.
"I think we were all disappointed in [not hosting a game], maybe coaches more than players, and for the fans," Shaver said. "I think it is an injustice, quite honestly, but to play in a national tournament, we'll go anywhere and play at any time right now."