Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
Virginia Tech has positioned itself for the NCAA Tournament. There’s no doubt about that.
Fresh off of a monumental 87-80 victory over Notre Dame on Thursday evening, the seventh-seeded Hokies (21-12, 11-9 ACC) are playing as well as any, and are poised to crack the field of 68 for the fifth straight time.
Another team playing well within the ACC? The third-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels (23-8, 15-5 ACC). Already a lock to participate in the big dance, the Heels are playing for seeding. Oh, and an ACC championship.
The maroon and orange may already be in. But if they don’t want to sweat on Selection Sunday, they might want to take care of business this evening.
Game Day Information
When: Friday, March 11, 9:30 p.m. ET
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
PXP: Dan Shulman
Analyst: Jay Bilas
Sideline Reporter: Holly Rowe
Series History: North Carolina Leads 72-15
Last Time Out
With its entire season on the line against the Fighting Irish on Thursday evening, it was tough to tell what type of Virginia Tech team we would get. It turns out, it was a pretty dang good one.
From start to finish, the Hokies never trailed. While they didn’t exactly dominate the contest, Mike Young’s team countered every punch that Notre Dame threw.
The result? A win that vaulted the maroon and orange into the ACC semifinals for the first time since 2011. More importantly, it was one that likely earns them a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Is it all said and done? Not for sure. But a complete performance on Thursday evening certainly would suggest the Hokies badly want to go dancing after a disastrous start to the season.
Five in double figures. 57% from three. 18-for-24 from the line, and just six turnovers. That’s a pretty impressive stat line for Virginia Tech.
Not only that, the individual contributions were enormous. 20 points from Keve Aluma, 16 from Storm Murphy highlighted by two big-time threes and a double-double from Justyn Mutts certainly stood out. But the performance this team put together in a true must-win game that likely will direct the course of the Hokies’ postseason destination, certainly trumps the list.
The Hokies now sit just two wins from an ACC championship. That’s what Virginia Tech needs to make it easy for the committee. There is little doubt now, but with a win over North Carolina on Friday night, there will be no doubt that the Hokies will hear their names on Selection Sunday.
Scouting North Carolina
Few knew what to expect from North Carolina in the early portions of Hubert Davis’ first season at the helm. Recently, the Tar Heels have been clicking on all cylinders, and are one of the hottest teams in the country.
Highlighted by a 94-81 upset victory over Duke in Mike Krzyzweski’s final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Heels have quietly embarked on a six-game winning streak, and have quickly caught fire at the right time.
A big reason for that? Armando Bacot (16.6 points per game, 12.5 rebounds per game).
The runner-up for ACC Player of the Year has been a freak all season down low. With his double-double plus capabilities, he’ll be a problem for the Hokies on the inside. That was the case in the previous two meetings.
One can’t forget about Caleb Love (15.7 points per game) at the top of the key. The St. Louis native put up a team-best 21 points in the win in Blacksburg earlier this season. He’ll continue to be a big piece for North Carolina down the stretch if it wants to bring home yet another ACC crown.
Brady Manek (14.4 points per game) has been really good recently on the outside. The Oklahoma graduate transfer scored 21 points in the win over Virginia just a few hours ago, and has really come on in the latter portions of the season.
To win an ACC championship in Davis’ first season would be a huge step forward for this North Carolina program.
Can it take one step closer, and knock off a Virginia Tech team teeter-tottering on the bubble? Let’s see.
It’s extremely difficult to pick against this Hokies team with the way they’ve played over the last month and a half.
The Tar Heels swept the season series, and it’ll be difficult to take all three. But at the end of the day, Bacot will be a huge matchup problem down low for Virginia Tech. It’ll be tough for Virginia Tech to shoot its way around that.
North Carolina will leave some doubt for the Hokies by eliminating them in the semifinal round and will advance to play for its first ACC championship in the Davis era.
Prediction: (3) North Carolina 75, (7) Virginia Tech 72