Virginia Tech Exits ACC Tournament Early With Florida State Loss

Sean Pedulla and Virginia Tech had an early exit at the ACC Tournament in Washington, D.C. (The ACC)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Virginia Tech exited the ACC Tournament early on Wednesday afternoon after just one game, an 86-76 loss to Florida State.

“They played a little bit better than we did,” Tech head coach Mike Young said after the loss. “… I thought we had some very good shots that we got down in the first half. Consequently, we go in at the half up one, but I thought we had some very good shots in the second half, but we weren’t shooting the ball [well].”

The Hokies (18-14) led the Seminoles (17-15) at halftime by one, 37-36, but struggled offensively in the second half.

After shooting a 64 percent clip in the first 20 minutes, they regressed to just 36 percent after the break and endured a stretch of almost five minutes without a basket. Most of Tech’s offense came at the foul line; it was in the double bonus halfway through the period and attempted 22 free throws, 20 more than the first half.

But lack of ball security and other inconsistencies — rebounding among them — came back to bite the Hokies. Their 13 turnovers led to 25 points for the ‘Noles, who were paced by VCU transfer Jamir Watkins’ career-high 34 points and 11 rebounds. The guard, who Young described as a “heat-seeking missile,” played like one for much of the game.

“That’s a dude right there,” Tech guard MJ Collins said of Watkins. “Getting downhill, he’s strong, physical. Our plan was to keep him from getting downhill, but it’s easier said then done. When he gets downhill, he’s a problem.”

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Young preached about the importance of taking care of the basketball on Tuesday after Virginia Tech arrived in the nation’s capital. His team had not committed more than 10 miscues in its last seven games. But against Florida State’s length, it struggled, especially late.

Hunter Cattoor and Virginia Tech struggled to take care of the ball against Florida State, especially in the second half. (Craig Hunter Ross/ACC)

Tech, who was led by Sean Pedulla’s 24 points and five assists, tied the game with 7:28 remaining after spotting FSU a cushion. However, everything unraveled quickly. Three turnovers and four missed shots in a four-minute span put the ‘Noles up 10 again and Tech couldn’t climb out of it.

“I felt like we were in great position,” Tech guard Hunter Cattoor said. “We were in good spots, we were making good plays, getting stops on the defensive end. It just kind of slipped away. … It’s kind of been the story of this year — we’re in the game and something happens, a couple of possessions where we lose it and they go on a run and we just can’t ever come back from it.

“It’s tough. … It’s basically a seven-minute game, zero-zero. But at the end of the day, it just sucks that we couldn’t get back in it.”

Tyler Nickel and Collins, two of Tech’s three players to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor (with Lynn Kidd), joined Pedulla in double figures for the Hokies. Nickel was the team’s leading rebounder for the first time this year with seven boards and chipped in 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Collins was 5-of-10 for 15 points and four assists.

Kidd recorded eight points and made four of his six field goals but it was tough for him and fellow big man Mylyjael Poteat — who was held scoreless — to find anything on a consistent basis inside against FSU’s height. Cattoor hit a 3-pointer to get Tech going early but missed his next four attempts and finished with just eight points and five boards. As a team, Tech was 6-of-24 from behind the arc.

“I think we had the same looks in the first half as we did in the second half, they just didn’t drop in the second half,” Cattoor said.

“I think we did get a lot of good shots,” Nickel said. “When we get past the first layer of defense, play on two feet, drive and kicks, we got a lot of good shots from guys that can shoot the real really well, but sometimes they just don’t drop.”

MJ Collins and Virginia Tech had good looks but couldn’t convert them against Florida State. (Craig Hunter Ross/ACC)

The ‘Noles found success down low with 48 paint points. Jalen Warley (18 points) and Primo Spears (10) complemented Watkins in the backcourt while Cameron Corhen (eight) and Baba Miller (seven) helped FSU control the interior and the glass.

When the two teams met in February, Virginia Tech finished with a plus-12 rebounding margin. Florida State was nine boards better on Wednesday, which included 13 second-chance points off nine offensive rebounds.

Tech tried to make a late push against the ‘Noles but couldn’t complete the comeback. With 1:01 left, it cut the deficit to five after forcing a turnover with its full-court pressure, and it had an opportunity to make it a one-possession game after FSU gave it away a second time, but Pedulla’s jumper ricocheted off the rim.

The loss ends Tech’s chances at an NCAA Tournament bid. After making the Big Dance in five straight years it was held from 2017-22, it’s now missed the event two years in a row despite winning two more conference games than it did last season.

“We just couldn’t really stack on games,” Cattoor said. “There were some games where we kind of won two games and that third game, we kind of had a lull, and that stacks up. I just think we weren’t consistent, night in and night out, to be an NCAA tournament team. You have to be consistent within the team … and [put] together a 40-minute game. … I don’t think we did that well enough this year.”

If the Hokies are to play any more postseason basketball, their opportunity lies in the NIT. As a result of the event changing its selection format in October, Tech would automatically qualify if it’s one of the top-two teams in the ACC according to the NET rankings. The selection show is at 9:30 p.m. ET on Sunday on ESPN2.

“To play in the postseason? Sign me up,” Young said of a chance to participate in the NIT. “… We all want to play in the big one, but to coach these guys again and make a run at that thing. … I don’t care what anybody says, [it’s] not what all of us want to do, but it is still a great tournament, and I’d like to do that.”

Box Score: Florida State 86, Virginia Tech 76 

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37 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Preseason we project to finish 8th
    We lose two athletic guards on a guard centric offense.
    We go 10-10 and lose to a bad matchup in ACC Trny.
    We recruit midlevel talent at both levels and hope to hit a fivestar or uncover that Mike Vick type player.

    Buzz S16 was a culmination of three years work and talent. NIL is making that so much tougher when we lose the continuity.

  2. VT basketball knows who they are every year–a 17-21 win team, an NIT bid annually, an NCAA bid every 4 years with a couple head scratching losses every year along with an upset here and there. It’s just who we are until NIL hires better players from the portal or from high school.

  3. Basketball has become the same irrelevant team as football has. Terrible to be a hokie and watch teams go to feared teams to not feared at all. Both SHOULD be top 25 teams every year.

      1. Football was top 25 for years, now we lose to Marshall, unranked for years? Buzz showed what the basketball program can be. We have the facilities and budget for both to be VERY GOOD teams. Just frustrating to watch.

  4. I understand getting it all out of your system. But some of you are way too negative. Before the season, Tech was predicted by the ACC (and others) to finish eighth. They finished…eighth. They won two more ACC games than last year. We blew out a ranked UVA. Extended injuries really hurt. Losing Rice was a real blow. Long’s rebounding and defense certainly could have helped down the stretch. Bottom line…We are all disappointed, but please keep some perspective. And if you want to complain some more, call Miami. They’ll want to hear it.

  5. Yeah, we missed shots. But we also threw terrible passes to the other team, we missed layups, we couldn’t even make an inbounds pass. Junior high stuff. We gave this one away.

  6. The NIT has always been a great tournament. Not sure if folks know the history of it. And, the teams in that tournament are teams, some of which, have beaten top 10 teams this year. It’s great basketball. And, VT could get a game or two at home which would be nice. Winning the NIT would be something special, even though folks may not think so. Remember, there are only two champs at the end of the year, the winner of the NCAA tournament, and the winner of the NIT.

    1. Are all the NIT games played in Blacksburg? If not, we have no shot. We are a terrible road team.

  7. Everyone has a right to be disappointed but don’t forget the history of the program. The NIT has been the gold standard for Virginia Tech, not the NCAA. What Buzz and Mike Young have done recently has moved the bar higher, but don’t fool yourselves into thinking that we have fallen off of a cliff. We have just moved back to our old neighborhood. The city of frustration on disappointment avenue.

  8. It’s college basketball – 2024 style. It’s a whole new world. There might be one team in either Men’s or Women’s hoops that might be a sure winning bet every night – USC – East – and they are the epitome of the direction that the Women’s side is going to. I’d rather watch VT and Kenny Brooks any day.

    On the Men’s side – where does Kansas fit? They’ve got 5*’s sitting on the bench. Duh’ville??? Anybody can play Captain Obvious in analyzing VT’s Men’s season. However, there are probably 200 D-1 teams that would fit that category.

    There is no purity in college football or college basketball anymore. Either embrace the small blessings we have at VT – or find other sports to indulge in.

    1. “On the Men’s side”
      On any given Saturday… ask how UNC and Houston fans feel.
      Plus – watching some of the ‘lower’ conference championship games – one wonders how some of those teams would do in a P5 Conference – because they have some ballers.

  9. Just pack it up and start mining the transfer portal and high schools. The NIT is irrelevant.

    1. 100% agree. This is a team that looks ready to move on. NIT means “0” at this point. The seniors all played like “over”. Rebuild for next year and try to retain key players like Pedulla, NIckel, Kidd, Collins!!! Tired of CMY’s jawboning comments!!!

    2. Agree. No one cares about the NIT. This is a deeply flawed roster with no true scorer. I’m tired off jump shooting smurfs who cant defend. Catoor is a complement player not the go to option. Not his fault this year but that has hurt his production.

  10. All in all, a very disappointing season to put it mildly. Unfortunately, it seems like it’s been all downhill since winning the ACC championship. Don’t even want to think what a disaster next season will be unless CMY is able to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the transfer portal hat.

  11. Disappointing end to an underachieving season. Developing and retaining talent is key if this team is going to move forward. Too many xfers out, coupled with veteran players who aren’t continually improving. I saw improvement this year from Kidd, Collins, and Poteat tho.

  12. Hunter hurt the last month? Certainly was a no-show. And Kidd, where does he go for stretches? Zones out?
    Very disappointing team that never really gelled. Oh well, Spring FB practice starts in a few days.

  13. I don’t disagree with the comments re physicality; in my view, this was just another game the Hokies quite literally threw away (25 pts on 13 to’s, gezz). Unfortunately, this team’s legacy will be that of throwing away winnable games. (And, ‘live by the 3, die by the 3; but, that can be said of every MY team.) So, in a way, thank God this season is over. After this last performance, they have a snow ball’s chance of the NIT. Now, I wonder, I wonder, I wonder, if TSL will conduct a fan survey about the tenor of the basketball program, with the same pointed questions as they did for the football program.

  14. A very disappointing season. The better team won today, better prepared and executed better. I really feel for CMY, only thing Consistent about our play this year is our Inconsistency. Our coach never knew what he was going to get out of the 8 guys he played. Next year maybe worse..

    But as always, GO HOKIES!!!!!

  15. When your second best player makes one shot and only shoots five times and your second best defender doesn’t score a point and fouls out with little minutes played we will struggle. These players are good representatives of Hokie Nation . I wish them well. For next year we will need more portal success which I hate to rely on it but such the nature of college sports now

    1. We all love Hunter for the person he is and want he means to VT basketball. However, he primarily is a catch & shoot offensive player (not totally, but mostly). This yr particularly, teams have been assigning athletic, physical defenders (most teams have 1, FSU has about 8 that fit the bill) and then mug him when he tries to come off screens. If officiating crews had any gonads, Hunter would have shot about humm ………500 FT’s.

  16. Over and out. We have a coach thrilled to go to the NIT. That’s the problem and another reason Tech has no national championships.

    1. That is not contextually what he said.. He said he loves his players, competing and coaching… and he would much prefer a postseason NIT invite than to pack it up and not be around his players.

      1. Exactly – taken way out of context. Of course CMY would have preferred NCAA but NIT is better than nothing.

  17. Cattoor’s comments summarized our season. FSU has a very physical team and committed only 1 foul in the first half! Really? When they saw this they turned up the physical heat and we wilted. We have a good team that could become very good or better, but we need to bulk up, especially our big men. The teams that can push us around and intimidate will always cause us problems. Hope some of the younger guys and some additions from the transfer portal will move us up.

    1. I tend to agree. But, my concern is with the composure of the player leaders on the team. When it matters, you cannot make foolish mistakes, you cannot ball hog, you have to dig into the purity of the game of basketball and play a concentrated version of “doing things the right way” to give yourself a chance to win. You force a shot, you miss an open guy, you don’t move without the ball, you don’t crash the boards, you don’t concentrate on all those “Xs and Os” things as much as you are “hustling” then you lose.

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