The Hokies will once again be playing postseason basketball, as it was announced yesterday that they would be the 3 seed for Region 2 in the upcoming NIT. After a strong finish to the season which unfortunately culminated in another loss to Miami in the ACC tournament (bleh), the Hokies certainly should be in this tournament. As the 3 seed, the Hokies will even get a home game, possibly two if BYU loses to UAB in the opposite first round matchup.
Initially, I was thrilled with getting a 3 seed, but also partly surprised. I felt that getting an invitation to the NIT was a safe bet, but I was concerned the tournament makers wouldn't give the Hokies the respect that they got because of weak performances in the non-conference portion of the schedule. Their ugly losing streak during the ACC portion wasn't going to help either. I didn't think the tournament makers would value the team's growth over the last month or so as much as those who have been closely watching Virginia Tech throughout the season. But luckily the Hokies are where they deserve to be.
Projecting how the Hokies will do in the NIT becomes a little more difficult once they get past the first game (which I think they win). Before doing any research, I think BYU comes out on top against UAB which means that the Hokies will have to travel to Provo, Utah to take on the Cougars. This is where it gets tricky. Despite the Hokies' success of late, facing an unknown team in a new environment can be a tricky thing to handle for a young team. BYU went 23-10 this season and has tournament experience on their roster which means they know how crazy tournament games can get. If they can beat BYU, then I would expect the Hokies to make a deep run in the invitational.
Ultimately, I think the Hokies have the potential to reach the semifinals, which would mean a trip to Madison Square Garden. That would likely take a victory over a higher seed, but no team in this tournament is as good as some of the teams in the ACC that the Hokies have competed with and won against this season. Even as a fan, the loss against Miami last Thursday stung way more than I thought it would, so I would imagine the sting of that loss should fire the team up to continue to play their hearts out during this tournament.
Getting at least one final home game is also a nice reward for the fans that have been extraordinarily loyal in supporting this team. The Hokies have always had a passionate fan base as you all know, and finally having a team worthy of that passion after a half a decade of incompetence is phenomenal to see. I expect the Cassell to be sold out and as loud as ever.
So to summarize, my initial reaction is this: the Hokies were put in a great position to make a run in this tournament, and as long as the team isn't dejected by the loss to the Hurricanes, then I could easily see Virginia Tech playing at Madison Square Garden come March 29th.
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