After the euphoria of VT’s 2OT victory over Virginia made them a virtual lock for the NCAA, reality set in. First with the loss of their wing guard and leading rebounder Chris Clarke with a torn left ACL. Then there is the fact that they still need to win games in no small part due to a non-con that compared worse than anything even Jamie Dixon did.
That said, the Hokies’ lone victories over top-50 RPI opponents are Duke and Virginia, both at home. Most problematic, as noted earlier this season, Virginia Tech’s non-conference schedule was the ACC’s tamest, and at No. 308 on Monday’s RPI was ahead of only No. 326 Rutgers among Power Five teams.
As Hokies faithful know all too well from the latter stages of Seth Greenberg’s coaching tenure, those are numbers that can cost you a bid.
Tech’s games prior to the ACC tournament are at Pitt on Tuesday and at Louisville on Saturday, followed by Clemson at home, Boston College on the road, and Miami and Wake Forest at home — the Hokies are 12-1 at Cassell Coliseum, stumbling only against NCAA-bound Notre Dame.
It’s never a good sign when you are being compared to Rutgers in… anything.
They do have a road win over Michigan, so there is that. But, yeah. They need to hold serve at home and either beat Pitt and BC or just win one and and a ACC Tournament game to clinch it.
As for any talk of Pitt with a late run making the NCAA Tournament. I can’t even consider it. Not at 3-9 in the ACC. Not with 3 of the final 4 games on the road, including at Virginia and UNC at home. Along with FSU still to visit. Not impossible, I suppose. Just very improbable.
It has nothing to do with the minutes played and running out of gas. It’s not ideal, but few teams really go that deep. VT had decent depth and now they are down one of their starters who averaged nearly 30 minutes a game.
As well as Pitt has played to go 2-2 in the last two weeks, there is still a lingering question for me as to how long they really can sustain — well… their focus.
But he is passing the credit mainly onto his players, many of whom are spending extra time after practice, Stallings said.
“There seems to have been a different level of urgency with our group the last couple of weeks,” he said. “Because of that urgency, we’ve begun to play better.”
Senior Michael Young, who has scored 51 points in the two victories while planting himself closer to the basket, said an improved mental approach has helped.
“Just being aggressive,” he said. “That’s been our mentality. No matter what happens on the play, offense or defense, we have to keep going as hard as we can, pay attention to details and concentrate.”
Young, who leads the ACC with 20.8 points per game, wants to prove he can score from anywhere, but he’s more productive as an inside force. He converts 37 percent of his 3-point shots, but his accuracy improves to 47.1 when all attempts are included.
“Getting him more touches close to the goal is good for our team, good for our efficiency,” Stallings said. “Maybe trying to take a little bit more control of it has helped the efficiency of it.
“They seem to function better with more structure. I might tell them what to do, and they tend to do it better than if they’re trying to figure out what to do on their own.”
There is no question in my mind that this team knows what it should do. That it knows what it takes to get the wins. The question is whether they want to keep doing those things.
Play defense. Go after rebounds. Not look just to run and hoist shots. I repeat, even when they had more “offensive freedom,” this was at best a team with average tempo nationally. Slowing it down has clearly helped them focus more at both ends.
At the same time, the flaws from the non-con: up-and-down effort, poor defense and overconfidence with a lead. Those are still there.