Top-Ten Virginia Tech-UVA Clash: A Rivalry Milestone

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Seth Allen Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech vs. Virginia has produced some barn-burners (here, Seth Allen hits the double overtime game-winner on Feb 12, 2017), but Tuesday night’s matchup is unique. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

No. 1 Virginia hosts No. 7 Virginia Tech Tuesday night, and it’s not just the first top ten matchup between the two schools: it’s the first matchup in the series with both teams ranked since 1995. Those are the Coach’s Poll rankings; the schools are No. 4 and No. 9 in today’s AP Poll.

On December 28, 1995, a Virginia Tech team that was coached by Bill Foster that was in the process of making the Hokies’ first NCAA appearance since 1986 met a UVA squad that would eventually flounder to a losing record under head coach Jeff Jones. At game time, the Hokies were 4-1 and ranked No. 21 by the AP; the Hoos were 4-2 and ranked No. 22.

The game, won 72-64 by the Hokies, was a turning point for both teams’ seasons. After the loss, the Cavaliers went 3-7 in their next ten games and plummeted from the rankings. UVA finished 12-15, with no postseason play, just the second time in 19 years the Cavaliers didn’t play on in some fashion.

After dispatching the Hoos, the Hokies won 14 of their next 15, eventually reaching a record of 19-2 before ending up at 23-6 with a second-round NCAA loss to Kentucky. At one point in late January, the Hokies reached a national ranking of No. 8, a program high that stood until last week, when Virginia Tech reached No. 7.

That was a long time ago. The schools have played 37 games since then, and while some have been classics, this is the first time since December 1995 that both teams will be ranked at game time. It’s only the third time in 147 meetings that both teams have been ranked.

And you can catch it on … Raycom. The ACC’s list of affiliates includes four stations in New York, three stations in Texas, and stations in Hawaii, California, Oregon, and Wisconsin, but stunningly, no stations in North Carolina, the heart of the ACC. Don’t believe that list of affiliates, though, because multiple tweets indicate that it’s … not exactly accurate. So check your local listings, and good luck.

Recent History of the Series

As inept as it is on the part of the ACC and ESPN to not make this game a national broadcast – the teams were ranked No. 5 and No. 15 in the preseason, go figure – let’s quit the griping and get back to the topic of the game.

Since that Ace Custis-led 1995 win, the series has not been kind to the Hokies. Virginia has gone 25-12 against Virginia Tech in the 23+ years since then. That’s no surprise. Virginia has won 62 percent of the games in the history of the series, going 91-56 against Virginia Tech, so that keeps with the pattern of the series.

The Hokies have fielded some atrocious basketball teams since Bill Foster retired, under Bobby Hussey (23-32 at VT), Ricky Stokes (45-70), and James Johnson (22-41). Hussey, Stokes and Johnson went a combined 1-9 against the Cavaliers.

Seth Greenberg, who coached Virginia Tech from 2003-04 through 2011-12, and Buzz Williams (2014-15 to the present) have fared better, going 11-15.

Of note is the Hokies’ record against Virginia since the start of the 2015-16 season, Buzz Williams’s second year in Blacksburg. In the last three seasons, Virginia has gone 83-22 (0.79 win rate) overall, but the Hokies have split 3-3 with the Cavs, one of just three ACC schools to build a .500 record against Virginia:

(Note that FSU’s 2-2 record includes a loss to Virginia this season.)

Especially sweet was the Hokies’ shocking win in Charlottesville last year on February 10, as No. 2 Virginia was on the cusp of attaining the top spot in the polls. The Hokies spoiled that with a dramatic overtime win.

Well, Virginia Tech didn’t really spoil it; Virginia was ranked No. 1 the following Monday, anyway. But the Hokies did ruin the party that weekend.

Everyone talks (and talks, and talks, and TALKS) about the Cavaliers losing to 16-seed UMBC in the NCAA Tournament, but Hokie fans should stop trotting out that tired old joke and focus instead on what Virginia Tech accomplished with that February win in Charlottesville. Virginia went 20-1 in ACC play last season, including 17-1 in the ACC regular season and 3-0 on their way to the ACC Tournament Championship. That loss to the Hokies was their only ACC loss last season.

The Cavaliers are 38-2 in their last 40 games. The “2” belong to UMBC, of course, and the Hokies. Tony Bennett’s program is humming at peak efficiency, but Buzz’s guys still snuck one in on them.

Justin Robinson Virginia Tech
Justin Robinson drives to the hoop in last January’s Hokies-Hoos meeting in Cassell Coliseum. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Tuesday Night’s Game

What does all this mean for Tuesday night’s game? Not a hill of beans. For me, the game has an odd big/not big feel to it. It’s big from the standpoint that, yes, it’s a matchup of top-ten teams. But what is really on the line? Not a lot. This isn’t a tournament game or a clash of unbeatens (though it almost was the latter; thanks, Penn State). This game, or the rematch on February 18, which will be televised by ESPN, isn’t likely to decide the ACC regular-season title.

I think it’s one of those situations where, if the Hokies lose, it’ll be no big deal. It’s a road game against one of the top teams in the nation, and the Hokies’ two true road games this year have been disasters: a horrid 63-62 road loss to a less-than-mediocre Penn State team, and an eyeball-searing 52-49 win over Georgia Tech that saw the Hokies shoot 29.8%, their worst shooting performance in (by my count) 90 games, since shooting 29.6% against Miami back in February of 2016.

This is a chance for Virginia Tech to take their temperature against one of the nation’s top teams and figure out how good they might be. Today’s NET rankings (the RPI replacement) have the Hokies at a lofty No. 8, not to mention being No. 7/9 in the major polls, but are they really that good? Tuesday won’t tell the full tale, but it’ll give us a clue.

Embedded in that 3-3 record against Virginia the last three seasons is an ugly side: when Virginia Tech wins, it’s just barely, and when Virginia wins, it’s a blowout. Tech’s three wins are by a total of five points, and two of them came in overtime. Virginia’s three wins are by an average of 22.3 points, including a 26-point demolition of the Hokies in Blacksburg last season.

So Tuesday’s game in Charlottesville could go sideways for the Hokies. If it does, don’t freak out. If it doesn’t, then enjoy it.

Virginia Tech-Virginia Series Notes

As noted above, Virginia leads the overall series 91-56.

Despite Virginia’s stretches of dominance in the series at times, the Cavaliers have never, ahem, won 15 straight against the Hokies. The longest winning streak for either team stands at nine games, accomplished once by Virginia (1977-1983) and twice by the Hokies (1958-1964, 1947-1951).

The locations for the 147 games played thus far: Blacksburg (51), Charlottesville (51), Roanoke (17), Richmond (17), Lynchburg (6), Hampton (2), Norfolk (1), Salem (1), Greensboro-ACC Tourney (1).

The two schools played on campus and at neutral sites from 1915 to 1975. Then they played at neutral sites, almost exclusively Richmond and Roanoke, for nearly a quarter century, from 1976 to 1999. The series returned to on-campus sites with the 2000-01 season, and of course, has stayed there since Virginia Tech’s entry into the ACC in 2004-05.

Virginia Tech’s record against Virginia is 29-22 (.569) at home, 14-37 (.275) on the road, and 13-32 (.289) at neutral sites.

In addition to the 1995 game where both teams were ranked, there has been one other matchup of ranked teams. No. 7 Virginia beat No. 17 Virginia Tech 74-64 in January of 1983.

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28 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I had forgotten we got to 19-2 in 1995. Another article put another twist on the wins the last 3 years. We are the ONLY team to be UVA each of the last 3 years. Hoping for the same defensive effort and ball movement we had against GT but just go 10/27 instead of 5/27 of our 3s and we will be in his. I agree with other commenters. Win or lose I just want to see us play well on the road. I am hoping that UVA wil fold under the pressure of being undefeated. Go Hokies!

  2. It’s not on in North Carolina because Raycom is also showing Wake Forest – NC State is that same time frame. So those of us here (NC) will get that crap game instead.

  3. Let’s Go….Hokies!!!! Buzz has his mojo working. Tony has his slow down going. It’s a game of tempo & discipline. Here’s where Buzz Mental toughness pays off. Hokies take down the Cavaliers & don’t need OT.

    Great trip back down I-81 for VT.

    Let’s Go….Hokies!!!
    Beat Wahoos.

  4. My opinion is that VT took all of their “bad” shots at GT, got them out of their system, so that they could take more “good” and “great” shots at UVa.

    GO HOKIES!!!

  5. I’m curious as to why there are so many neutral site games in the series, and in so many different places around the state? Were they moved to larger arenas for space? Early OOC tournaments? Played in other parts of the state for exposure fans not near campus?

    1. It was for exposure, if I recall at the time. But I’m sure that the revenue sharing opportunities didn’t hurt either since both games would sell out.

    2. As I recall, UVA only wanted to play VT once a year during that period. To avoid home court advantage for either team, the games were played at neutral sites.

  6. I don’t care what anyone says, UMBC not only beating, but blowing out, #1 UVA will never get old.

  7. This series, home and home, is what VT has gotten by becoming a member of the ACC. Finally we get to play some top 10 teams in our Blacksburg gym. Though tomorrow night we start on the road. UVA currently plays like Alabama does in football. They win win and win some more and they are able to recruit to their style of play and reload every year. So it will be quite the challenge. But at the least we get to use the game as an internal measuring guide. See what works and what needs improvement. Then in 5 weeks we go at it again.

    While the mountain will be tough to climb we do have the skills to get there. The formula is a combination of solid defense, for 40 minutes, plus a good night of jump shots. Outside of the GT game we have been good in both areas. So I am saying we have a chance. But I am looking more at how competitive we are and how our sophmores react to a true road game.

  8. We will be at minimum a 9 point underdog.. Blackshear must not foul, Hill, Outlaw & Walker must be hot and Robinson can’t turn the ball over for us to have a chance. Not the end of the season. GO HOKIES!!!

  9. It is hard to believe that 2 top 10 teams are playing basketball and espn chooses to broadcast sec and aac games. I live in Florida and do not have access to Raycom. Crap.

    1. The Florida pickings are slim:

      Florida Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne WRBW My Network TV
      Florida Tallahassee-Thomasville WTXL-D2 Bounce TV

  10. Screw the past!!! It’s a brave new world this season and the Hoos are due for a beating and we’re just the guys to do it 🙂

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