Here we are again.
About a year after the their first tournament appearance in a decade, the Virginia Tech Hokies are slated to go dancing in back-to-back seasons. This is a rarity in program history, with this last being accomplished nearly 30 years ago. Buzz Williams appears to have made Selection Sunday an annual celebration for Hokie fans instead of the disappointing finish to a weekend it has been for many years.
Tech has a stack of quality wins, good wins, but also some not-so-great results mixed in on their resume. Let’s review them.
- No. 10 North Carolina
- at No. 2 Virginia
- No. 15 Clemson
- No. 5 Duke
The Hokies’ best argument for a mid-tier seed in the tournament comes from the fact they have four Top 15 wins this season. In each of these games, Virginia Tech proved that they could compete with some of the best teams the ACC and the nation had to offer.
Tech’s rough ACC start was somewhat cured by a handy win over reigning national champions North Carolina. The Tar Heels were a consistent team all season, and despite ending the season sixth in the ACC standings, UNC made a run to the finals of the ACC tournament. This would surely be a good game for the committee to use the eye test for - the Hokies thoroughly beat the No. 10 team in the country, evidenced by a 14 point lead prior to Joel Berry’s three as the clock hit triple zeros.
The win over now-No. 1 Virginia was probably the most impressive win all season by any team in Division I. This win showed Tech’s ability to compete with great teams in hostile environments, which adds diversity to the Hokies’ quality wins. Virginia Tech remains the lone ACC team to defeat UVA this season, a noteworthy accomplishment since Tony Bennett’s side has only two losses all year. The ‘Hoos 17-1 conference record is nothing short of outstanding, and for Virginia Tech to be that sole blemish is quite impressive.
The win over No. 15 Clemson is probably the weakest of the quality wins Tech has. The Tigers were without Shelton Mitchell, one of Clemson’s best playmakers and key contributors. Still, the Hokies outplayed Clemson in all facets of the game en route to a 65-58 win. After losing badly in Durham, the Hokies more than made up for it with a crucial last-second win over No. 5 Duke in Cassell on senior night. That victory firmly cemented Virginia Tech’s ticket to the dance, and was their second win over the Blue Devils in as many seasons.
- North Carolina State
- at Boston College
- at Notre Dame
There is not much meat in this portion of the Hokies’ resume, but that is not a big deal after considering their quality wins. The Wolfpack had a mediocre season in 2016-17. However, first-year coach Kevin Keatts made up for it with an 11-7 conference record this year. Virginia Tech handed NC State a 85-75 loss in Blacksburg, looking like the superior side while doing so.
Boston College has been a laughingstock for the majority of the last two seasons, but they were a much more respectable team in 2017-18. The Eagles may have ended the season with a 7-11 conference record, but nearly pulled off upsets against both Duke and Virginia. BC also managed to win two ACC tournament games, an impressive feat for head coach Jim Christian. The victory over Notre Dame has soured a bit given the Hokies’ collapse against the Irish last Wednesday, but any win in South Bend is impressive. However, both Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell were absent in the first meeting.
- Saint Louis
- Notre Dame (ACC tournament)
Virginia Tech fell to the Saint Louis Billekens back in the season’s infancy while the Hokies were still adjusting to life without Seth Allen or Zach LeDay. It was an ugly loss, but it should not significantly affect the Hokies’ tournament seeding, as there were upsets galore in buy games for big time programs. The loss at home to Miami was not necessarily a very bad loss, but the ‘Canes were without Bruce Brown, one of their best players and the Hokies could not take advantage of the circumstances. The loss seemed to ignite a spark of intensity for the Hokies, who have played much better since the loss.
The ACC tournament loss to Notre Dame is certainly still fresh in the players’ minds, as the Irish clawed back from a 21 point second half deficit and turn it into a much-needed win for their tournament hopes. Again, this was not necessarily a terrible loss. When healthy, Mike Brey’s team could easily have been regarded as a top 20 team in the country. But once more, given the circumstances, the Hokies should have walked away from this game with a win.
- Louisville (L)
- No. 8 Kentucky (L)
- Iowa (W)
The Hokies have not had much success against teams from Kentucky, dropping all three games between Kentucky and Louisville. Both road games were shootouts, as Tech scored 86 points in both contests but still lost. Kentucky was the marquee non-conference matchup for the Hokies. Tech held a halftime lead but was overmatched on the glass down the stretch and was unable to counter the size mismatch Kentucky possessed. The home loss to Louisville was not much better. The Cardinals got hot from the perimeter while the Hokies went ice cold. Louisville appears to be a bubble team according to most bracket “experts”, and their two wins over the Hokies helps their case.
Iowa ended up having one of their worst seasons in recent memory. The Hokies thrashed the Hawkeyes 79-55 at home back in late November. This win essentially became more irrelevant as the season wore on, but it would have been a travesty if Tech lost this one.
What to Expect
Virginia Tech lost out on a fantastic opportunity to possibly obtain a No. 7 seed in the NCAA tournament after their week in Brooklyn. The collapse against Notre Dame probably entrenches the Hokies as a No. 8 seed, which is where I predict they will land in the bracket Sunday afternoon.
Last season, the Hokies were the No. 9 seed matched up against an underrated Wisconsin group. Even if they won that game, Tech would have played Villanova in the next round. The eight or nine seed is not an ideal place to be, given the fact that the Hokies have Sweet 16 potential should they find a little bit more consistency and focus to close out games. It will all depend on the matchups in the Hokies’ region.
The bracket will be unveiled at 6 p.m. EST on TBS (not CBS). The Hokies are once more having a watch party at Cassell as their seeding is revealed to the country.