Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
After months of desperately searching for a marquee victory, Virginia Tech has finally found a pulse.
The Hokies (18-11, 10-8 ACC) all of a sudden have won eight of their last nine, and with Saturday’s win over Miami, the maroon and orange have paved the way for a fifth-straight NCAA Tournament berth.
The work isn’t done though. Two more regular season games remain, with both being must-wins.
First up, Louisville (12-16, 6-12 ACC), a team the Hokies are seeking their first victory over since all the way back in 1991.
Game Day Information
When: Tuesday, Mar. 1, 9:00 p.m. ET
Where: Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, VA
PXP: Mike Couzens
Analyst: Debbie Antonelli
Sideline Reporter: Brooke Weisbrod
Series History: Louisville Leads 36-8
Last Meeting: Louisville Won 73-71 on Jan. 6, 2021
Line: Virginia Tech -10.5
Last Time Out
Sitting firmly on the outside of the NCAA Tournament bubble, Virginia Tech just needed to get over the hump.
Fortunately for the Hokies, they were just barely able to take advantage of their last opportunity to secure a signature win before heading to Brooklyn for the upcoming ACC Tournament.
Mike Young’s team had already begun to consolidate a respectable tournament resume. But it still was missing that one key ingredient that’s essentially required to participate in the field of 68.
Still lacking that coveted Quadrant 1 victory, the Hokies desperately needed to take down the Miami Hurricanes in South Beach. Unfortunately for the maroon and orange, it didn’t appear that was going to be the case.
18 turnovers. 25 points off takesays. 29% shooting from deep.
Certainly not a recipe for success.
Trailing by eight with just over 90 seconds to play, it seemed as if Virginia Tech was finished. But after a couple steals and Sean Pedulla deuces later, the Hokies were in business.
17.8 seconds remained. Miami led 70-68. The maroon and orange had that amount of time to make something happen and essentially fight for their NCAA Tournament hopes.
Then, a takeaway. Florida native Hunter Cattoor deflected away the inbound right into the hands of Darius Maddox.
Without a second thought, the former ESPN 100 recruit pulled up for three from the right wing.
The Hokies had the lead, and would retain it to capture a monumental 71-70 victory over the Hurricanes.
What could’ve been a fitting end to Virginia Tech’s tournament aspirations, turned into a season-saving shot.
With that, the path is now clear for an improbable March Madness bid.
It’s no secret the ACC is having an historically bad year in the 2021-22 campaign.
Look no further than Louisville as to why, who are having one of its worst seasons in recent memory.
Out goes Chris Mack, in comes Mike Pegues. The transition has been anything but smooth.
The Cardinals have gone a mere 1-7 under the interim head coach, though it’s clear the program had started to falter well before Pegues took over.
The problem with Louisville? Well, it just seems to lack consistent playmaking ability, and there’s not a ton around even the Cards’ prized possessions.
Florida transfer Noah Locke (9.9 points per game) can score the rock if able to create space, and Malik Williams (9.3 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game) can do some damage down low. But beyond that, it’s an extremely limited Louisville team compared to years past.
Miami defector Matt Cross (6.0 points per game) can make some shots from the outside. But even he’s been held in check compared to original expectations when he arrived on campus.
Oh, there’s this too. The Hokies haven’t beaten the Cardinals in 17 tries.
But take the name off the front of their jerseys, Virginia Tech fans shouldn’t be too concerned about coming away with a victory.
Don’t sleepwalk. Don’t overlook.
Those are the keys for the Hokies in this one. If the maroon and orange are able to do just that, they shouldn’t have any issues taking down Louisville.
Virginia Tech will continue the momentum, win its ninth game in 10 tries, and continue to crawl even closer towards the 2022 NCAA Tournament.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 77, Louisville 68