On Thursday, the Hokies announced the full lineup of games for the men’s basketball team. Early thoughts surrounding the Hokies from the college basketball analysts across the nation expect this to be another NCAA tournament caliber year for Buzz Williams’ program. However, a favorable schedule can certainly increase the odds of a successful season, whereas a tough slate of games limits the margin of error a team has in order to build their resume.
Here are my five initial thoughts on the Hokies’ 2018-19 schedule for the upcoming winter:
1. With two NCAA tournament appearances in consecutive years, the expectation level has been set for the Hokies’ basketball program. For the Hokies’ to maintain their recent success, they need to have a strong non-conference showing and this year’s schedule allows for it. However, Tech’s non-conference schedule only projects to have one or two tournament caliber teams (Penn State and if they advance far enough in the Charleston Classic, either Purdue or Wichita State). This means the Hokies will need to show out during the ACC portion, where they have won 10 games in each of the last three seasons.
2. I always like to look at the home games on the schedule while the student section is on winter break to find out if the schedulers dealt the Hokies a tough hand with major games during that period of time. In recent years, Tech played both Duke and Virginia at home during break and it really hurt the team’s energy, specifically last year in a bad loss to UVA (who later became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in the NCAA tournament). This winter break, Virginia Tech’s toughest home test is the conference opener against a Notre Dame side that lost both Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell this offseason, a favorable outcome for the Hokies.
3. Virginia Tech plays Virginia and Miami twice (per usual), in addition to Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. I envision this to be much easier than last year’s slate, where the Hokies were dealt Boston College and Duke as the home-and-home opponents. With the depth of the ACC, some teams are put in a tough spot because they have to play a blue blood twice, while another team of the same talent level does not. The Hokies have split against Virginia the last three years and Miami two of the last three years. If they can replicate that, they are in a very good position to outdo last year’s conference win total by virtue of an easier schedule.
4. Buzz Williams’ teams have a habit of starting slow but generally hit their stride post-Valentine’s Day. While the Hokies have an overall easier conference schedule this year, the final five games of the regular season will not be a cakewalk. After visiting Pittsburgh, the Hokies host Virginia, travel to South Bend to play Notre Dame, come back to Blacksburg for the season’s lone meeting with the Blue Devils, fly south to Tallahassee to face an FSU team whose length has proven to be Tech’s kryptonite, and finish up with Miami at home. It is a good thing the Hokies play their best ball at the end of the year, because that is a brutal stretch to finish the season.
5. The Hokies were afforded their first and second Big Monday opportunities last season at home against Duke and North Carolina in a while and came up with two monumental, résumé-building wins. This season, they get three games on Monday nights against talented opponents: on the road against North Carolina and at home against Louisville and Virginia. I know, the day of the week has little to do with a team’s chance to win. But I do think knowing the team is in the national spotlight helps elevate their game, as the Hokies have done well in these showings over the last few seasons.
You can view the full schedule here.