As ACC Tournament Arrives, Women’s Basketball Team Hitting Their Stride

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After dismantling Wake Forest on Sunday, the Virginia Tech women’s
basketball is getting ready for the ACC Tournament, which begins on Thursday
night. The Hokies will play Wake Forest for the third time this season in the
first round. Tech has endured an up and down season, breezing through
out-of-conference games and running into trouble at the beginning of their ACC
schedule. But Beth Dunkenberger and her staff have gotten things turned around,
and the team appears to be headed to the NCAA Tournament.

The season got off to a promising start. The Hokies were 12-0 heading into
the NC State game on January 2. They had defeated ODU and Texas Tech in
out-of-conference play, and it looked like they were set to have a great year in
the ACC. The Hokies were blown out 65-44 by NC State in Raleigh, but then they
rebounded and knocked off High Point and nationally-ranked Boston College to
improve to 14-1. Perhaps the NC State game was just a fluke performance?

The
Hokies lost their next four games, all ACC contests. They were blown out at home
by a young Virginia team that finished in the bottom half of the ACC, lost in
overtime at Wake Forest, played #6 Maryland surprisingly close in Cassell, and
then went on the road and got shellacked by Miami in a game where the final
score (77-62) didn’t indicate the blowout that the game actually was.

At that point the Hokies had slipped to 14-5 and 1-5 in the ACC. Tech had
risen as high as #18 in the AP poll going into the Virginia game, but after
losing to Miami, they dropped back out of the poll. This was a very bad start to
ACC play for a team that features five experienced seniors and three juniors.

At that point Tech had to go on the road to Virginia, a team that thrashed
them in Blacksburg earlier in the season. Things didn’t look like they were
going to get any better, but the Hokies put together a complete game and took
UVA to the woodshed, winning 65-54 in University Hall.

Starting with the UVA game, the Hokies won five of their last eight. Their
only three losses came to Duke twice, when the Blue Devils were ranked #2 and
#1, and to UNC once, when the Tar Heels were ranked #3. In home games against
Duke and UNC, Tech played very well, losing 73-62 to the Blue Devils and 84-75
to UNC. Most of Tech’s wins in that span were blowouts, including the latest
76-42 whipping of Wake Forest. The Hokies’ best win in that span was a 76-69
victory at Florida State, who finished fourth in the ACC with a record
of 19-8 and 10-4 in the conference.

After turning their season around, the Hokies are charging into the ACC
Tournament with a 19-8 overall record and 6-8 mark in the ACC. They were 14th in
the official NCAA RPI as of Tuesday, February 21. Since then Tech has been blown
out by Duke, and then crushed Wake Forest, so that mark probably won’t change
much. RealTimeRPI.com, which has been updated since the Wake Forest game, ranks
the Hokies 20th with an SOS mark of #9.

It appears that no matter what happens in Virginia Tech’s first round ACC
Tournament game against Wake Forest, the Hokies are headed to the NCAA
Tournament. However they can improve their seeding by defeating the Demon
Deacons. A win Thursday at 7 pm would pit the Hokies against the #2 seed Duke
Blue Devils on Friday night at 7pm. This year’s ACC Women’s Basketball
Tournament is being held in the Greensboro Coliseum.

Men’s Basketball Team Looking for an NIT Bid

Everyone is fully aware of the trials and tribulations of the Tech men’s
basketball team this year. From half court shots, to season-ending injuries, to
deep three-pointers right before halftime, to parents and players with cancer,
etc. You name it, and this team has probably experienced it in some way. Tech
has lost a total of nine games by six points or less, seven of those coming in
ACC competition.

After losing their first ACC game of the season in Cameron Indoor Stadium
77-75 to #1 Duke thanks to Sean Dockery’s half court heave, the Hokies have
limped through the remainder of ACC play and lost a number of close games. But
nonetheless, despite a record of 14-13 overall and 4-10 in ACC play, Tech has a
chance to make the NIT for the second consecutive season.

A total of 105 teams will make a postseason tournament. 65 teams will make
the NCAA Tournament, including the play-in game. 40 teams will make the NIT. The
NIT is now owned and operated by the NCAA, so it is difficult to project how
they will make their selections.

The NIT Selection Committee met
in January and announced two things
in mid-February. First, a team does not
necessarily have to have a winning record to make the NIT. Second, a team that
wins their conference during the regular season, but loses in the conference
tournament, will automatically get a bid to the NIT if they don’t receive an
at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament.

That second rule could potentially damage the Hokies. There are always a few
teams from the small conferences who win the conference championship in the
regular season, but get upset in the conference tournament. That could result in
fewer NIT spaces for teams from bigger conferences.

The NIT Selection Committee has already posted its selection principles and
procedures. Those with a great capacity for concentration and tolerance of bureaucratic language can read the six-page PDF by
clicking here
.

The NIT Selection Committee consists of former Division I men’s basketball
head coaches and is comprised of Hall of Famers Newton and Dean
Smith, along with Don  DeVoe, Reggie Minton, Jack Powers, and Carroll
Williams.

One interesting facet of the selection process: At no point in the process
shall a member vote for a team the individual has represented as a coach,
athletics director or commissioner. So Don DeVoe, a former Virginia Tech coach,
cannot vote for the Hokies.

The Hokies took a big step towards the NIT with their 72-61 victory over
Florida State on Saturday night. They could take an even bigger step with a win
over Clemson on Wednesday night. The Tigers are just 1-6 on the road in ACC
play. With a win on Wednesday, the Hokies would improve to 15-13 overall. That
would clinch at least a .500 record for Tech. If they lost the season finale
against Boston College and then lost the opening round of the ACC Tournament, VT
would have a 15-15 record and be at the mercy of the NIT Selection Committee.

Virginia Tech would stand a much greater chance of securing an NIT bid by
winning two more games to get to 16 wins. Their best chances for those two wins
are against Clemson on Wednesday and in the first round of the ACC Tournament.
If the season ended today, the Hokies would play Virginia in the first round,
although they could also end up playing Florida State, Miami or Maryland. Three
more victories and 17 wins would virtually guarantee an NIT berth.

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