Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
You cannot write a script better than this. For the fifth consecutive season, Virginia Tech is going dancing.
Digging themselves out of their own grave, the Hokies (23-12, 11-9 ACC) have surged right into the field of 68.
10-10 overall. 2-7 in the ACC. Sound familiar? Since then, the maroon and orange have rattled off 13 wins in 15 games, capped off by the program’s first-ever ACC championship last Saturday night.
But the work isn’t finished. Greener pastures may still await Mike Young’s club. The 11th-seeded Hokies look to continue their magical run up in Milwaukee, vying to extend their season another few days against the sixth-seeded Texas Longhorns (21-11, 10-8 Big 12).
Game Day Information
When: Friday, March 18, 4:30 p.m. ET
Where: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, WI
PXP: Spero Dedes
Analyst: Debbie Antonelli
Sideline Reporter: AJ Ross
Series History: First Meetings
Line: Texas -1
Last Time Out
Where were you on Saturday evening?
That’ll be the big question for years to come regarding one of the best moments in Virginia Tech sports history.
Decades of being an afterthought now seem ever so distant, and for the first time since a Metro Conference championship in 1979, Virginia Tech basketball reins supreme as conference champions.
Through Clemson, Notre Dame, North Carolina and finally, Duke, the Hokies saw no shortage of challengers in their hunt for an ACC crown. But after demolishing the two blue bloods by a combined 28 points, the Hokies completed one of the more impressive ACC Tournament runs in recent history.
Keep in mind, Virginia Tech sat squarely on the bubble when it arrived in Brooklyn. It even still hovered there heading into Championship Saturday.
But alas, the Hokies left no doubt, securing the league’s automatic bid and thumping the top-seeded Blue Devils, 82-67.
From Hunter Cattoor’s emphatic 31 points, to Justyn Mutts’ posterization of Paolo Banchero and to orange and maroon confetti raining down on the Barclays Center, it was truly a night to remember for Virginia Tech fans and alumni all across the country.
“Leave no doubt.” That was Young’s team’s motto throughout their improbable run.
Now, with a spot in the round of 32 on the line, that signature saying continues to hold true to the rest of college basketball.
There may not be another team in the NCAA Tournament that feels as disrespected as Texas — at least in terms of a higher-level seed.
The Longhorns are equipped under first-year head coach Chris Beard.
The former Texas Tech big whistle took the Red Raiders all the way to the national championship game back in 2019, and is now poised to make similar strides coaching his alma mater.
Beard’s got the tools to make a run and it all starts with Timmy Allen (12.3 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game) down low. The 6-foot-6, 210-pounder leads the team in both categories, and has been a force inside all year long.
Marcus Carr (10.9 points per game) and Andrew Jones (10.7 points per game) provide solid guard play on the offensive end for Texas, Defensively however, is where the Longhorns flourish.
Losers of its last three and four of its last six, Beard’s team is hungry. Considered by many to be the underdog, Texas will look to make a statement on college basketball’s grandest stage.
It’s not often where the nation feels so set on Virginia Tech in a matchup like this. But let’s be real: The Hokies are one of the hottest teams in the country, and you’ll rarely see the ACC champion as a double-digit seed.
The maroon and orange just seem like a runaway freight train. Behind Mutts, Keve Aluma and Storm Murphy in his home state, the Hokies will live to see another day during this magical 2021-22 campaign.
Either No. 3 seed Purdue or No. 14 Yale awaits on Sunday.
Prediction: (11) Virginia Tech 71, (6) Texas 66