Best Chance Ever at a Sweet 16

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The Hokies have been maddening at times this year — NC State, anyone? — but
the sum total of their season is one of achievement. By winning big games and
finishing near the top of the #1 conference in the country, VT has earned
themselves a #5 seed and the best chance of making the Sweet 16 of any Hokie
team in history.

The old-timers will come out of the woodwork and tell you that Virginia Tech
has made a Sweet 16, and technically, they’re correct. The Hokies actually did
better than that, going to the Elite 8 in 1967 and nearly making the Final Four,
losing to Dayton 71-66 in overtime in a regional final. Had the Hokies won that
game, they would have advanced to the Final Four in Louisville Kentucky, going
up against UNC in the national semi-finals for the right to get pummeled by
powerful UCLA in the championship.

The 1967 final eight appearance was a great achievement by the Hokies, but
only 23 teams went to the NCAA tournament that year, and the tournament didn’t
resemble the March Madness of today. The modern era was ushered in by Larry Bird
and Magic Johnson in 1979, when the tournament expanded from 32 to 40 teams and
seedings were introduced for the first time.

Ironically, the Hokies met Bird’s Indiana State team, the #1 seed in the
Midwest, in the second round that year and lost 86-69. The Hokies were
competitive for the early portion of the game, but a big run by the Sycamores
midway through the first half put Bird’s team up by a healthy margin, which they
were able to maintain throughout the rest of the game.

The Hokies were a #8 seed that year, beating #9 seed Jacksonville in the
first round, 70-53. The 1979 NCAA appearance by the Hokies was characteristic of
most of Tech’s seven NCAA appearances. The Hokies weren’t seeded very high, they
faced an opponent with very little basketball tradition, and their reward for
winning was a second-round date with a juggernaut.

One of the worst seeds you can draw in the NCAA tournament is an eight or
nine seed. Your first round matchup is a team of comparable strength, making it
difficult to advance, and if you do win, you’re most likely going to get crushed
in the second round. A 7-seed