After a big opening ACC win at home against Duke, Virginia Tech’s season has been an up-and-down whirlwind. With 8 ACC games remaining, the Hokies sit right in the middle of the conference in 8th place with a 5-5 conference record. They have not looked impressive on the road, but for the most part the Hokies have beaten the teams they should have. Per KenPom, the Hokies sit 55th in the rankings (as of yesterday afternoon), teetering on the tournament cutoff line.
Selection Sunday is a little over five weeks away, and at this point, every team in the ACC including the Hokies has a large enough body of work to evaluate their resume as they head into the final stretch of the season. Obviously, there is a whole lot of basketball left to be played. In this conference, anything is still possible.
Quality Wins (top 30 opponents, definite NCAA tournament teams):
Yeah, not a long list. This lack of quality wins this season for the Hokies may end up being the reason they are watching the tournament on their couches. With huge games against Virginia and Louisville coming up, there are opportunities for Virginia Tech to improve this portion of their resume.
Since their loss in Blacksburg, the Blue Devils dropped from #5 to as far as down as #21 in the AP Poll. With Krzyzewski back from a leave of absence, Duke appears to be getting their act together at the right time, winning their last three including a huge win in South Bend over a ranked Notre Dame squad. That is good news for the Hokies, who will want the Blue Devils to be highly ranked come Selection Sunday.
Good Wins (on the fringe to probable tournament teams):
· @ Michigan
· @ Clemson
· Georgia Tech
Because the Hokies do not have a stack of quality wins, they need as many good wins as possible. In the ACC, nearly every game presents an opportunity to add another win to this portion of their resume.
The win against Michigan probably will not count for as much in a few weeks as many thought it would back in November. The Wolverines are just 14-8 on the season and 4-5 in the Big Ten, one of the more underwhelming conferences this season. But any time you can beat a team on the road with as much reputation as Michigan does, that is going to stand out. KenPom has Michigan at 34th in their overall rankings.
Syracuse is a team on the rise, having won their last four games. In that span, they have beaten Florida State and Virginia, both highly ranked opponents. However, Syracuse does have some bad losses on their schedule which could keep them out of the running. Right now, Boeheim has his team playing much better than they were back Virginia Tech beat them.
Clemson and Georgia Tech are teams that have either done much better or much worse than anticipated, but are still in the hunt for a bid. Clemson has failed to live up to preseason expectations, starting conference play with a rough 1-6 record and are 12th in the ACC standings. They do have an impressive win over South Carolina and have won their last two games with a contest against #15 FSU today. Four of their six conference losses have been by five points or less so they have certainly been a competitive team.
Georgia Tech, meanwhile, is a team that no one saw coming. Head Coach Josh Pastner has led his team to huge resume boosting wins against UNC, FSU, and Notre Dame. The one-point win over the Yellow Jackets felt a little underachieving at the time, but it looks much better now. Georgia Tech is probably on the outside looking in at this point.
· Nebraska (N)
· Boston College
· New Mexico (N)
There is not much here the tournament committee will look at when evaluating the Hokies’ resume. Virginia Tech should have won these games and they did.
· @ NC State
· Texas A&M (N)
· @ Virginia
I am not a big proponent of the term “quality losses”, but I do think there are such things as bad losses. The Wolfpack obliterated the Hokies from the opening whistle, as Virginia Tech allowed 100 points for the first time since a 2OT loss to Maryland in 2010. NC State has not had a good run since that win. They beat Duke, but are just 3-8 in the ACC and it appears they will not make the tournament.
The loss in Charlottesville may not necessarily come back to bite the Hokies on Selection Sunday due to the fact that it was a loss on the road to a top 10 opponent. But Virginia Tech was absolutely dominated in that game and failed to score 50 points. If the tournament committee uses the eye test at all instead of going solely off of results, the Hokies chances of obtaining a bid could take a hit.
In the Wooden Legacy Tournament back in November, the Hokies held a 17-point second half lead over the Aggies but failed to close and were eliminated. Texas A&M has been mediocre in the SEC, with just an 11-10 record overall. They could easily be another team that fails to make the tournament.
The Road Ahead
· @ Miami
· @ Pittsburgh
· @ Louisville
· @ Boston College
· Wake Forest
The bad news is it does not get any easier for the Hokies. The good news is that there are many more opportunities to improve their resume over the course of these final eight games, not to mention the ACC tournament. In order to really ensure an NCAA tournament bid, the Hokies should have 10 wins in conference play. That means they have to go 5-3 the rest of the way.
Virginia Tech’s biggest game of the season will be one week from today when they host UVA in Blacksburg for a grudge match. A win would not only double the number of quality wins the Hokies have accumulated so far, but it would also provide some momentum going forward. The Hokies earned an NIT bid last season due to finishing the regular season on a five-game win streak. While it is unlikely that will happen this season, the final four games on the schedule are very winnable with three of those at home.
This week’s game against the Hurricanes is another possible momentum shifting game. Buzz Williams has only beaten Miami once in his three seasons here, but Miami is not as strong as last season and the Hokies are better. Basketball is all about confidence, and the Hokies need to gain more of that as we move closer to the end of the regular season. Building that confidence against a solid team on the road would be a good start to the Hokies’ final argument to make the tournament.
So if today was March 12th, would the Hokies make the NCAA tournament?
I would say yes. The Hokies have not laid an Alabama State sized egg this season and are playing in the most competitive conference in the country, which directly strengthens their strength of schedule. But there is still plenty left to be determined. The Hokies could either end up in the top half of the ACC and easily make the tournament or have the fans sweat it out on decision day. With how the conference has played out, nothing should be surprising.