For the first time in ten years, the Virginia Tech Hokies NCAA Tournament dreams have become a reality. Can Buzz Williams overcome a tough first round matchup and lead the Hokies over the Badgers of Wisconsin?
Time: 9:40 pm
Location: Buffalo, NY (NCAA Round One)
Line: Wisc -5.5
Buzz Williams has had the basketball program quietly on the rise since he took over three years ago. After a 2-16 mark in conference play in year one, Williams turned things around in year two.
Last year, the Hokies reached 10-8 in the conference and got an NIT bid. But by far his best accomplishment is leading the Hokies this year to that elusive NCAA bid this year. They again reached 10-8 in the conference, while boasting a 23-10 record overall.
On the surface, it seems that the Hokies have a tough matchup in the first round. Many are arguing the Wisconsin, who was ranked 24th in the AP Poll before losing to Michigan this weekend in the Big 10 Championship, is under-seeded.
Some coaches may feel that just reaching the tournament is a success, so much so that any win would be a bonus. Not Buzz. Ava Wallace of The Washington Post reports that Buzz said during the watch party at Cassell this Sunday, “You know you’re going in the right direction when you look in the corners and see the seats are full . . . this is the beginning.”
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Notice his emphasis on beginning. Yes, Buzz is happy with the progress he has brought at Virginia Tech. However, he also knows that there is much more work to be done.
Despite the talent Wisconsin certainly has, Virginia Tech matches up quite well with them. Now, Wisconsin does have a strong post presence in 7-footer Ethan Happ.
Nonetheless, Zach LeDay has proven he can handle the likes of John Collins and Jonathan Isaac. In addition, Wisconsin is not nearly as deep as Florida State when it comes to height.
Another bonus for the Hokies is that they are 9th in the nation in 3-point offense. Meanwhile, Wisconsin ranks 307th in the nation in 3-point defense.
Seth Allen is sure to be up to the challenge, and if shooters like Justin Bibbs and Ahmed Hill can get hot, the Hokies have a real chance at the upset. While the Badgers average 5 more RPG, Virginia Tech has significantly better 3-point and overall FG percentages.
The Hokies average 79.3 points per game, compared to 71.9 by the Badgers, but Wisconsin only gives up 61.1 PPG. With that in mind, a fast-paced offensive game seems to benefit the Hokies more than a slow defensive one.
Ultimately, Virginia Tech’s chances in this game once again come down to their undersized forwards. If LeDay can continue his stellar play coming off his All-ACC Tournament performance, the Hokies should be able to contain Happ and his 9 RPG.
Outside of that, Virginia Tech seems to have the edge in shooting, and if they can continue to light it up from behind the arc (especially for players like Bibbs and Hill), they just may advance to Round 2.