Virginia Tech Does The Unthinkable, Wins ACC Tournament Championship

Nahiem Alleyne and Virginia Tech won the ACC Tournament Championship. (Liam Sment)

How does one describe what happened in the Barclays Center on Saturday, March 12, 2022? Virginia Tech did what many thought was impossible, winning the ACC Tournament Championship, and the result came in style.

Many stories write themselves. The Hokies’ novel is, and will be, a page-turner.

Back against the wall, 2-7 in the ACC, nothing to play for but each other. That’s all Virginia Tech had. But Mike Young made sure his team stayed the course.

He said time and time again that the season would turn around, and when it did, it would be beautiful. But never in a million years would he think it would culminate in an ACC Championship for Virginia Tech.

Winning 13 games in 15 tries? Extremely difficult, but doable. Four wins in four days over Clemson, Notre Dame, North Carolina and Duke? Okay, now you might be pushing the limit. How about Tech outscoring its final three opponents by 35, the two blue bloods by 28?

How would one frame that journey from nothing to everything?

“Gratifying.” That’s what Young called it.

Mike Young called this championship “gratifying.” (Liam Sment)

And rightfully so. The way in which Virginia Tech rolled – not casually won, but overpowered and dominated – to the ACC Tournament Championship is unbelievable.

But it shouldn’t come as a surprise. This team was picked fifth in the ACC Preseason Poll for a reason. The veteran leadership – starting three fifth-year seniors, two juniors – along with the chemistry and hungriness made this team jump off the page.

Things just didn’t click right away, something Young has taken blame for. A poor ACC start put the Hokies in a hole, and they had to climb out of it. But it led to one of the greatest moments in Virginia Tech basketball history. Maybe it was all worth it in the end.

As for the game against Duke in Brooklyn, Tech was the better team.

Hunter Cattoor dropped a career-high 31 points and was named the ACC Tournament’s Most Valuable Player. He said it was like playing in his front yard.

Keve Aluma, a First Team All-Tournament Selection, posted a casual 19 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high seven assists. He out-assisted his own point guard, Second Team All-Tournament performer Storm Murphy, who had nine points and six dimes.

And Justyn Mutts? His moment of the game, posterizing Duke’s Paolo Banchero, came with 2:27 remaining in the contest. That moment will stick in the minds of Tech fans until the end of time.

Maybe the play of the game – Mutts’s slam on Banchero. (Liam Sment)

“We played good basketball,” Young said. “We were not clicking defensively. My point at the half was if you think we can outscore them, you’re sadly mistaken. We were much better … much better second half. Got our feet on the ground defensively but continued to play good basketball on the offensive end of the floor.”

The Hokies shot 50% from the floor (32-64) and 45% from distance (10-22), and every time Duke punched once, they punched back twice. The Blue Devils’ largest run of the game was six points, and that came in the first seven minutes of the game.

Tech, on the other hand, had two 8-0 stretches in each half and one 6-0 spurt around the 16-minute mark in the second period.

Cattoor, 7-of-9 from behind the arc, couldn’t miss. Mike Krzyzewski described it as “a Klay Thompson kind of night.” He and Aluma combined for 28 of Tech’s 42 first half points.

But the defense in the second half, particularly holding the Blue Devils to 2-of-12 from three and 39% from the field, really made a difference. Duke could never get going, and from the 12:33-mark on in the second half, made just 4-of-15 shots.

“I thought our offense was good,” Krzyzewski said afterwards. “We just didn’t hit shots. We couldn’t stop them. When you don’t hit shots, you don’t look like you’re running good offense. We got – even down 10, we got two threes that are in and out and missed four free throws. I had not a problem with our offense, but we couldn’t stop them, and that was the game.”

Virginia Tech: Well-oiled machine. (Liam Sment)

Virginia Tech looked, as Krzyzewski mentioned, like a well-oiled machine.

Thirty-seven rebounds to Duke’s 26. Nine turnovers to Duke’s 10 – the first team this season to beat the Blue Devils with more than five turnovers. Eighteen assists to Duke’s nine.

The Hokies deserved that ACC Tournament crown, and they got it, the program’s biggest win since joining the conference in 2004.

In 2,773 games in program history, Virginia Tech has played in eight “banner games,” otherwise known as postseason tournament finals.

Saturday was the eighth, the first since the 1995 NIT Final. And in three contests in the state of New York, Tech is a perfect 3-0.

But how about the journey for Young, Aluma, Murphy and Cattoor? Three years ago, Wofford Terriers, SoCon Champions. Now they ran through the ACC. Aluma said, “it means everything,” and that seemed to summarize the other two’s perspective.

And for Young, a Radford, Va. native who grew up watching Tech and Allan Bristow play in Cassell Coliseum with his father?

The championship means so much to Mike Young. (Liam Sment)

“I mean, it’s really a special thing for our basketball team,” Young said. “This is a special thing for Blacksburg; for southwest Virginia where I’m from, where I grew up; for the state of Virginia; for our unbelievable Hokie fan base.

“They’ll always remember this, this team, and what they’ve accomplished.”

And now the Hokies, in cardiac Kemba Walker fashion like 2011 UConn, are going dancing. It’s gratifying.

“We knew going into this tournament we were going to have to win a couple,” Cattoor said. “Once we won our first one, we were just saying, ‘why not the whole thing? We won’t have to worry about waiting on Selection Sunday to see if our name is called. Now knowing that our name is definitely going to be called, it’s a little bit more relaxing.”

Box Score: Link 

Postgame Press Conference Transcript: Link 

37 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Now to get the fans and media to a place where winning is not described as “unthinkable”. I believe the players and coaches were already there.

  2. My allergies were acting up reading the first few paragraphs. What a ride this was. Thank you techsideline for all you do to cover our behoved Hokies. Other than 99 this may be my favorite moment as a VT fan.

    1. My allergies were acting up reading the first few paragraphs. What a ride this was. Thank you techsideline for all you do to cover our beloved Hokies. Other than 99 this may be my favorite moment as a VT fan.

  3. Here’s the biggest story: Tech outscoring its final three opponents by 35, the two blue bloods by 28.

    That photo in this article of Hunter and his mom is priceless.

  4. In a nut shell…

    “I had no problem with our offense but, we couldn’t stop them, and that was the game.”

    Mike Krzyzewski

  5. Wow !! What a great run these past few months, especially this past week. I was hoping for at least 2 wins to keep us in the conversation. I never thought we’d win this tourney ! Clemson is an original ACC member and has NEVER won the the ACCT. What a great day to be a Hokie !!

  6. Yeah, I know Storm should have been benched for Padilla, I know Maddox should have been in there instead of Alleyne and CMY was just a non-power 5 coach who could win in the SoCon but give me a break; he can’t win in the big-time ACC. I know all that because the Debbie Downers were constantly saying this day after day. But inside the locker room, CMY and the players knew what they had and never let up chasing that desire to be relevant. They stuck with it and the true Hokie fans stuck with them. As CMY said, it was tough and stomach burning but he knew his vision would eventually get there. And, it did and with David, Padilla and Maddox staying as the role-players coming off the bench to spell the starters and not just filling space but contributing, the finished product emerged. The ugly duckling turned into the a well-oiled machine and plowed thru the best the ACC could throw at them. The last 3 games were not squeakers, they dominated the blue-bloods.

    1. I have another name for those so called “Debbie Downers”, whom I suspect only maybe 1 out of a 100 really “know” anything about coaching or playing athletics at the P5 level. What I would really like to do is make their keyboards a suppository. The next time I hear anything like that I think my response will be STFU. I know everyone is entitled to an opinion, but the constant harping from those with no real credentials is tiresome at best. And that is my opinion.
      I’ve enjoyed watching the team from far away this season, but the last 4 days were special….and at times raised the BP a few notches for sure…….
      Good for them, enjoy the next couple of days, get some rest, and then let us see if the team can hang onto the edge and make it a few more games before hanging up the Nike’s for the season. Six more “W’s” would make it an extraordinary run for certain. I wish them and all of Hokie Nation all the best…..

    2. I have watched the Hokies for 54 years nd I love my teams win or lose. In the last decade I get nervous when the score is close, but only because I know if they lose the boo birds will be out in great numbers. In many ways it takes the joy out of the games. And, if someone posts something positive, then tend to be attacked. It is really upsetting when negative comments are aimed at players. And, it would appear that the boo-birds are a small percentage of the subscribers. Guys your negative comments tend to spoil it for the rest of us.

    3. I never doubted You f as a coach but wondered if 3 Wofford starters
      Could match the athleticism in the ACC. That’s what is looked like when we were 10 -10.

  7. Game Summary:

    VT DUK
    82 67 Final Score
    —————————————————
    30 12 From Three Point Shots
    44 40 From Two Point Shots
    08 15 From Free Throws

    Biggest VT Lead: 18 (82-64)
    Biggest DUK Lead: 4 (20-16)
    Last Tie (of 5): 29-29
    Last Lead Change: VT 31, DUK 29
    It Was Over: VT 70, DUK 60

    Atlantic!

    Coast!

    Conference!

    Champions!

    Take THAT, Lunitardi!

    WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. We won the championship on MARCH 12th not the 13th. I know because MARCH 12th is my BIRTHDAY. What a PRESENT!

    1. My birthday is March 10th so we won on my birthday too. I’ve celebrated every day since March 10th!!!! Wow, best one ever!!!!!!

  9. Typo? “Nine assists to Duke’s 10 – the first team this season…” ‘sposed to be turnovers?

  10. Thanks for the write up DC. Saw you making a quick TV appearance chatting with Mutts.

  11. Lots to be proud of. Great team effort. Great coaching. And – beating Duke in the process – makes it even better. Wonder how Bill Brill is feeling now. 🙂

    1. They just showed on CBS the auto. bids clinched and there was the Virginia Tech name on it. How sweet it is. Thanks, David for all the great coverage.

  12. B-ball players all over the US and especially the Southeast know who we are now………who said players dont come to Blacksburg……Best is yet to come for us. The bird is out of the bag.

    Oh…….and these types of wins and seeing a champion on campus are known to be contagious. Gridiron Hokies …..are you watchin’ ?
    Who got NEXT?

    1. I’m excited about the new guys coming in next year. From articles I have read, all four have been moving up the ranks and getting better and better. I think CMY will keep building up the program like Bennett has done with the BooHoos.

    1. Spoiled his party. K was highly complimentary of our team; that his team didn’t play badly, we just played better. That was different from last week against UNC when he said it was unacceptable.

      1. Coach K is an ass of a human being (some media access to him in the past) but I will say this .. after the game .. he went around and talked to every Tech starter and seemed very genuine in his praise and likely telling them to really enjoy the moment. Solid move.

  13. Wow,as a fan I never thought I would see VT win an ACC Championship and I could not be happier for the entire program. I am thankful that I lived to see it thanks Hokies

  14. Finally win in Tallahassee. Finally beat Louisville. And polish it all off with an ACC title.

    BEST! SEASON! EVER!!!

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