After this weekend, the Virginia Tech basketball team will hit the midpoint of its ACC season.
The Hokies currently sit at 3-3 in the conference, with all three losses on the road. Thankfully for Seth Greenberg’s team, this week’s games against North Carolina and Clemson will be played within the friendly confines of Cassell Coliseum.
This two-game homestand could not be more pivotal for the Hokies’ NCAA tournament chances.
Many teams in the league are struggling to establish themselves as tournament-worthy programs. North Carolina has lost four of its last five games, Duke was just embarrassed at Georgetown, and Clemson just snapped a three-game losing streak Sunday after starting 3-1 in the ACC.
Every team in the conference as at least two ACC losses, while tenth place in the league has only four.
The Hokies are sitting in eighth place in the league at this point, but where you stand on Feb. 2 is not relevant.
There are two schools of thought on the correlation between the current ACC congestion and an NCAA tournament bid.
One way of thinking is since there is no dominant team in the conference; tournament bids are up for grabs by the teams that typically are not at the top of the heap.
However the other thought – which is probably more logical – is that with all the struggles the ACC has endured this season, there may not be too many bids to go around.
The only team right now that has practically secured their tournament bid is the Blue Devils. Besides that, it’s anyone’s guess.
Hokie fans may lament remembering in 2007, when a Deron Washington-led Tech team went 9-7 against the ACC yet failed to make the NCAA tournament, thanks to a weak non-conference schedule.
That could be the bugaboo again this year. Iowa, Penn State, VMI, Seton Hall, and Georgia were among the more notable teams the Hokies beat this season. Those five teams’ combined conference record right now is 8-34.
With numbers as frightening as that one, an even conference record won’t cut it.
Greenberg has preached to his team the importance of winning all home games against the ACC. With six games left at home, it may take a perfect record in Blacksburg to put the Hokies in the big dance.
The Tar Heels come to Cassell Thursday with hopes of turning around their disappointing season. They will not go down easily. If the Hokies fall to a team that lost by an average of 10.9 points in its last four losses, it may spell doom for their ultimate goal.
Should Tech get by the Tar Heels, the Tigers and their high-pressure attack await Saturday. Clemson is a difficult match-up for the Hokies, but there comes a time where Tech is going to have to bow up and move to two games over .500 in the ACC.
Despite their quickly dipping profiles, UNC and Clemson would look impressive on the Hokies resume under "quality wins".
This two-game stretch for Tech will be a microcosm of the final month of the season.
A 2-0 record this week could push the Hokies over the hump.
An 0-2 record would put them in a state of crisis.
Go 1-1, and they will be running the risk of hearing the same old story come Selection Sunday.