Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
Virginia Tech’s NCAA Tournament hopes are still alive.
With a narrow 76-75 victory over Clemson in the second round of the ACC Tournament, the Hokies (20-12, 11-9 ACC) have put themselves in a position to slide into the field of 68.
Now, likely one more hurdle remains.
The No. 2 seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish (22-9, 15-5 ACC) are seemingly the last team standing to prevent Virginia Tech from completing an improbable comeback into its fifth straight NCAA Tournament.
This is a must-win. It is a true win-or-go-home.
Can the Hokies prevail? What will the month of March tell us in 2022?
Game Day Information
When: Thursday, March 10, 7 p.m. ET
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
PXP: Dave O’Brien
Analyst: Cory Alexander
Sideline Reporter: Andraya Carter
Series History: Notre Dame Leads 9-7
Last Time Out
Leading 43-32 at the intermission against Clemson, it seemed as though the Hokies would cruise to a feel-good victory to set themselves up for a crucial quarterfinal matchup.
As it turns out, that wasn’t the case.
A dreadful 33% from the field, 4-for-16 from deep and 3-for-10 from the line in the second half nearly handed the game to the Tigers. More importantly, it would have put an end to Virginia Tech’s tourney hopes.
The Hokies were on the brink of one of the more epic collapses in the program’s recent memory. To see their postseason hopes evaporate to self-infliction, certainly wouldn’t have sat well for Mike Young’s team.
Luckily for Virginia Tech, Darius Maddox had other plans.
With the Hokies trailing 75-73 with 6.7 seconds to play, Maddox crossed the timeline, navigated to the left wing, went behind the back, set up the dribble and pulled up for the win.
The sophomore sharpshooter saved Virginia Tech’s season — for now. The Hokies lived to see another day, and with one more March miracle, the maroon and orange could be going dancing yet again.
At 10-10 overall and 2-7 in league play, Virginia Tech’s season was hanging by a thread. Now, just a little over a month later, the Hokies could be a win away from heading to the NCAA Tournament.
A win over Notre Dame, and the resilience shown all year, should be rewarded.
Scouting Notre Dame
What a year it has been for the Fighting Irish up in South Bend. After being tabbed to finish eighth in the ACC, Notre Dame flexed its muscles this season. The Irish are poised to get back into the field of 68 for the first time since 2017, and are seen as a legitimate threat to win the ACC after a successful regular season.
A big reason for that? Blake Wesley.
The All-ACC second-team member averages 14.8 points per game, and can really be a force at the top of the key for a high-scoring Notre Dame team.
Dane Goodwin is good at the wing as well. The Ohio native averages 14 points per contest, providing a solid threat for head coach Mike Brey on the outside. Let’s not forget about Paul Atkinson Jr. (12.6 points per game, 7.1 rebounds per game) either. He gives the Irish a nice interior presence down low.
Brey’s team lost to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg earlier this year, so there’ll be a sense of anticipation.
But with the amount of talent the Fighting Irish possess, there shouldn’t be a need to outscheme a desperate Virginia Tech team.
This is a really tough one to predict.
One one hand, you have a Virginia Tech team fighting for its NCAA Tournament lives. On the other, you have a top-tier, well-rested and hungry Notre Dame team.
It’ll be a tough one for the Hokies after playing an emotionally-draining overtime contest just under 24 hours ago. The Irish however, match up extremely well for Virginia Tech.
Keve Aluma will have a big day inside and the Hokies will hit some huge outside shots to move on to the ACC Tournament semifinals — likely taking a bid to the big dance with them.
Prediction: (7) Virginia Tech 78, (2) Notre Dame 71