As I am writing this, the ACC Tournament has already begun. The Clemson-NC State game is over, the Mark Gottfried era has come to an end, and the Wake Forest-Boston College game just ended with a Wake Forest victory. Virginia Tech will take on the Demon Deacons tomorrow night at 7 p.m.
This preview isn’t going to be particularly organized. Instead, it’s going to be mostly random thoughts (with some numbers thrown in) about the teams the Hokies could face this week. Specifically we’re going to focus on the best teams on Tech’s side of the bracket: Florida State, Notre Dame, Virginia and Wake Forest.
Virginia Tech did not draw an easy bracket in the 2017 ACC Tournament. No path to the championship is easy in the ACC, but Tech’s is especially hard when you consider what they did in the regular season against the higher seeds on their side of the bracket…
No. 2 Florida State: 0-1
No. 3 Notre Dame: 0-1
No. 6 Virginia: 1-1
The Hokies also lost to 10-seed Wake Forest over the weekend. In fact, both of their home losses this year came against teams that are on their side of the bracket: Wake and Notre Dame. That’s not a good sign, though one game in basketball doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Tech is very capable of beating both teams, though the Wake Forest matchup in particular is tough because the Demon Deacons have a scorer at every spot on the court and the best big man in the ACC in John Collins. In a way, Wake is very much like Virginia Tech, except they have more depth and more size. Both teams are filled with scorers and shooters and neither plays very good defense.
When the Hokies face the Demon Deacons again, it’s unlikely that John Collins will get in foul trouble for the second game in a row. On the other hand, it’s also unlikely that Virginia Tech will shoot 30.8 percent from three-point range again. Though Tech did score 84 points against Wake Forest, they also left a lot of points on the floor because of missed wide open three-pointers.
The Hokies can’t afford to get into foul trouble against Wake Forest, or anybody else. When Seth Allen and Ty Outlaw got in foul trouble on Saturday, walk-on Matt Galloway had to play and he struggled to keep Wake’s athletic guards in front of him. The result was a pair of “and-ones” and the Hokies lost the game by six points. In tightly called games, Tech is going to be at a disadvantage because of their lack of depth.
Just because the Hokies lost to Wake Saturday doesn’t mean they can’t beat the Deacons on Wednesday. Last year, Miami lost to Virginia Tech in the last game of the regular season. After a first round bye, the ‘Canes defeated Tech in the ACC Tournament. The same thing could happen again this year, except it could go in Tech’s favor.
If Tech does get by Wake Forest, they’ll face a very talented Florida State team on Thursday at 7 p.m. Leonard Hamilton has always stressed size. Check out some of the frontcourt players who see action for Florida State…
Jonathan Isaac: 6-foot-10, 210-pounds, Fr.
Phil Cofer: 6-foot-8, 218-pounds, Jr.
Christ Koumadje: 7-foot-4, 233-pounds, So.
Jarquez Smith: 6-foot-9, 236-pounds, Sr.
Michael Ojo: 7-foot-1, 304-pounds, r-Sr.
Guys like Ojo and Koumadje aren’t particularly skilled, but they protect the rim and they are a tough matchup on Virginia Tech’s smaller post players. That includes Ty Outlaw, who is 6-foot-6 and spending all his time at the 4-spot for the Hokies.
Florida State’s backcourt is also huge…
Xavier Rathan-Mayes: 6-foot-4, 208-pounds, Jr.
Dwayne Bacon: 6-foot-7, 221-pounds, So.
PJ Savoy: 6-foot-4, 200-pounds, So.)
Terance Mann: 6-foot-6, 204-pounds, So.
As you can see, the ‘Noles have a size advantage just about everywhere, as they usually do against most teams. However, the addition of guys like Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Dwayne Bacon has given Leonard Hamilton quite a bit of skill to go along with that size, and that’s why Florida State has taken such a big step forward this season. Bacon is projected as a late first round pick if he declares for the NBA Draft. When you combine their size with their skill, it’s easy to see why Florida State is currently projected as a 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The other two major teams in Tech’s bracket, Virginia and Notre Dame, couldn’t be any more different than Wake Forest and Florida State. Let’s talk about the Irish first. Notre Dame features one of my favorite ACC players in Bonzie Colson. He’s 6-foot-5, 225-pounds and nothing about his physical presence would make you believe he is an ACC player. He looks more like a center in the Big South or some other small conference.
However, Colson averaged a double-double this year — 17 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. Believe it or not, his numbers actually went up in ACC play — 17.5 points and 10.5 rebounds. You don’t see that kind of production out of 6-foot-5 post players at the ACC level. He’s pretty similar to Zach LeDay, only more productive.
Notre Dame is filled with other excellent players like Steve Vasturia, VJ Beachem and Matt Farrell. They have a ton of experience and head coach Mike Brey knows how to get the most out of their ability. They don’t blow you away with talented athletes like Wake Forest and Florida State, but the Irish know how to play basketball and sometimes, that’s more important than athleticism.
Notre Dame will most likely get 6-seed Virginia on Wednesday night at 9 p.m., which should be an excellent matchup. The Hoos were struggling for a couple of weeks, particularly when it comes to scoring, but more playing time for some of their more talented scorers like former McDonald’s All-American Kyle Guy has solved that issue. They dominated in their last three games of the regular season…
at NC State: 70-55 W
vs. North Carolina: 53-43 W
vs. Pittsburgh: 67-42 W
They are a very dangerous team right now. It takes a special defensive team to hold a program like North Carolina to 43 points, but that’s exactly what the Hoos did last week. They are one of the most frustrating teams in the entire country to watch play, and they are even more frustrating to play against. Like Notre Dame, they won’t wow anybody with athleticism, but they are extremely well-coached and they know how to play.
At this point, the Hokies have enough wins to make the NCAA Tournament. In fact, they aren’t even considered a bubble team. They are considered safely in the field of 68. Now it’s all about the numbers game — RPI, SOS and Top 50 wins. Those three games can help a team improve its resume and improve its seeding in the NCAA Tournament. It’s a good thing that Wake Forest beat Boston College today, because a victory over Boston College tomorrow wouldn’t have helped Tech’s resume at all.
Here’s what Tech’s resume would look like with a win over Boston College and a loss to Florida State…
RPI: No. 48
SOS: No. 66
Top 50 Wins: Four
Now here’s what Tech’s resume would look like with a win over Wake Forest and a loss to Florida State…
RPI: No. 44
SOS: No. 58
Top 50 Wins: Five
That’s quite a boost. It could potentially be the difference between being a 8-seed and a 7-seed, depending on what other teams do. Some wins help and some wins don’t. Playing and beating Boston College would do nothing for the Hokies at this point in the season. They needed to face Wake Forest tomorrow and fortunately for them, they are.
It’s going to be a tough tournament, and Tech’s first opponent is a difficult matchup that could easily bounce the Hokies after their first game. However, it also represents a great opportunity for the Hokies to improve their resume for the Selection Committee.
Tomorrow’s game will tip off at 7 p.m. and it will be televised by ESPN2 and The ACC Network Extra.