It’s time for a reality check, Hokies fans. This is not a good basketball team right now.
Selection Sunday is 29 days from today, Sunday, March 12th, and the Hokies are a 10-seed (and falling) in Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology on ESPN.com.
Despite being in the field if the season ended today, don’t be mistaken.
The Hokies are in trouble.
Seriously, they’re in trouble.
I’ve heard it all of late:
“They play in a tough ACC with a brutal schedule, they’ll be fine!”
“They can go 9-9 in conference and still get in, look at the ACC!”
“Their RPI is Top 50!!! How can they be left out?!?!”
Sure, the ACC has been tough. It has arguably been the toughest conference that college basketball has seen in quite some time. There are merits to the nine wins in conference argument, and the Hokies DO have a Top 50 RPI ranking at this point in time, sitting at 45th in the country (RPI, by the way, is a tool used by the Selection Committee to quantify wins and losses of a team against its strength of schedule).
However, Buzz Williams’ squad only has ONE, yes, ONE Top 50 win against the RPI this season, and that’s the victory over Duke to open conference play.
You can sit here and tell me that the Hokies need nine wins, or 10, or even more, to get into the tournament, and there can be arguments made for all. None of us actually know how many wins it will take for Tech to make it into the field, but the 9+ wins in conference seems to be a popular place to start.
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However, if the Hokies don’t tighten up their play on both ends of the court, it won’t end up mattering, because the Hokies won’t ever reach nine wins….and trust me, they won’t get into the Big Dance going 8-10 in the ACC short of a championship in the conference tournament, I can promise you that.
Seriously though, when is the last time the Hokies played a complete game on both ends of the court?
Was it the New Year’s Eve home win against Duke six weeks ago?
The Syracuse win on January 10th, when the Orange shot 5-for-17 from three on countless wide-open attempts?
The Clemson win on the road on January 22nd, 82-81?
The Hokies won all three of those games mentioned, and that’s all that matters for the tournament hopes to date, but the lack of consistency on both ends of the floor recently is extremely troubling.
Defensively, the Hokies have been a mess, especially over the last four games, where the team has posted a 1-3 record. The combination of the 3-2 and 1-3-1 zone defenses have not been quick at getting out to shooters, and opposing guards have shredded the gaps that these types of defenses inevitably create.
Over the 1-3 stretch, North Carolina, Boston College, Virginia, and Miami shot a combined 116-for-235 from the floor against the Hokies, which is good for a 49.4% clip.
Perhaps even more troubling is the turnovers, which were responsible for multiple opposing scoring runs in each of the last four games. The Hokies turned the ball over 10 times against the Tar Heels, 12 times against Boston College, 14 times against Virginia, and 15 times against Miami.
That’s good for a four-game average of 12.8 turnovers per contest.
Finally, and perhaps even inevitably, is the discrepancy shown in the rebounding category. The Hokies have been crushed on the boards to a tune of 147-102 over the last four games, leading to extra possessions for their opponents, and plenty of second-chance points.
The Hokies aren’t defending, aren’t taking care of the ball, and aren’t rebounding. That doesn’t seem like a winning formula to me.
So where do they Hokies go from here?
Obviously, improvement is vastly needed in all three areas outlined, and getting to what everyone seems to think is the “magic nine wins” would certainly lift everyone’s spirits.
The Hokies sit at 5-6 in conference play with seven regular season games remaining, which means to get to .500 in the ACC, they will need to go 4-3 down the stretch.
The schedule goes like this:
vs. #12 Virginia
@ #4 Louisville
Help me out here everyone, where will those four wins come, short of a couple of upsets against #12 UVA at home on Sunday or on the road against #4 Louisville next Saturday?
Most seem to think that just because the Hokies have beaten both Boston College and Clemson once already this season, they can do it again.
That’s quite the leap in this year’s ACC isn’t it? Especially when considering the Hokies saw a 17-point lead in Cassell against Boston College cut to a point with two minutes to play, and narrowly scraped by the Tigers in a back-and-forth road affair.
How about Wake Forest? Yes, it’s at home, but the Demon Deacons beat GT, a team that the Hokies struggled with, took Duke to the wire last week, only to lose by two, and smoked Miami two weeks ago, a team that the Hokies were just throttled by on Wednesday.
Speaking of Miami, anyone confident at home in the second match-up against the Hurricanes, especially after what Jim Larranaga’s club did to the Hokies this past week?
Ah, here’s the most popular one. Beating Pitt, AT Pitt.
The Hokies have not beaten the Panthers on the road since 1966.
It should be of note though, that the series was not an annual affair until Pitt joined the ACC in basketball prior to the 2013-14 season.
I hear all of you fans out there:
“Pitt is down this year (2-9 in the ACC), the Hokies can win that game on the road!!!”
Of course they can win there, but with the deficiencies in the two prominent VT zone defenses right now, is this really the time to go up against the two top scorers in the ACC on the Panthers in Michael Young (20.8 points per game) and Jamel Artis (20.0 points per game)?
I certainly hope the Hokies defense tightens up prior to that match-up in a few days….
So here we are, at a crossroads to the 2016-17 version of the Virginia Tech Hokies. The real season starts now, and the Hokies need EVERY win they can get.
The pivotal homestretch begins Sunday at 6:30 PM ET at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg against a Top 15-ranked in-state rival. Kicking off the final seven games with a victory against Virginia would undoubtedly help, while a loss would only steepen the hill to climb over the final six games.
So don’t put on your dancing shoes yet, Hokies fans. This team is not a lock to make the NCAA Tournament.
They’re far from it.