Virginia could be No. 1 if it beats Virginia Tech

After No. 1 Villanova lost at home to St. John’s on Wednesday, Saturday’s game against in-state rival Virginia Tech in Charlottesville, Va., got a bit more interesting for second-ranked Virginia.

The Cavaliers outscored Florida State by 14 in the second half Wednesday night in Tallahassee and escaped with a 59-55 win to extend their winning streak to 15 games.

With Villanova’s loss, a win by Virginia (23-1, 12-0 ACC) over the Hokies on Saturday would likely catapult the Cavaliers to a No. 1 ranking for the first time since the 1982-83 season, when Ralph Sampson was Virginia’s star.

“We’re on a different path,” Virginia sophomore guard Ty Jerome said when asked about being ranked No. 1. “We’re at the point where we’re on a quest of excellence. It doesn’t come along very often. It comes alone maybe once every 10 years.”

Saturday’s game will get even more attention because ESPN’s College Gameday will be in Charlottesville for its weekly pregame show. It will be the third time in the last four seasons that Gameday has made an appearance at John Paul Jones Arena.

Virginia Tech (17-7, 6-5) currently sits tied for fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference and is coming off a 10-point home win over North Carolina State on Wednesday night. Justin Robinson scored a career-high 32 points to carry the Hokies and is now averaging 18.1 points per game in ACC play.

Virginia Tech shot 63.5 percent from the floor against the Wolfpack, the best shooting performance by an ACC team in league play this season.

“I just think, us giving away some at home (the ACC losses at home), meant it was big for us to win tonight,” Robinson said. “I just think we’re back on track. We’re all in the right mindset, and we had great energy on offense and defense. Our tempo was good, and for us to win at home was big.”

In the first meeting this season back in early January, Virginia held the Hokies to a season-low 52 points in a 26-point win in Blacksburg, Va. Four players scored in double figures for the Cavaliers as they snapped their two-game losing streak at Cassell Coliseum.

Robinson and company will need to continue their hot shooting against a stingy Virginia defense that didn’t surrender a made field goal against Florida State over the final nine minutes of Wednesday night’s game. While offense is their main focus, the Hokies have not allowed a team to shoot better than 44 percent in any of their last four wins.

After failing to score a point in Virginia’s win over Syracuse, Cavaliers senior guard Devon Hall bounced back nicely against Florida State with 17 points, three rebounds and three assists.

Hall knows in order for the Cavaliers to extend their current 15-game conference winning streak, they will need to be ready for their rival.

“They’re a good team,” Hall said of the Hokies. “We’ve got to be ready.”

Virginia has not lost since its Dec. 5 defeat at the hands of West Virginia.

Saturday night’s game will be played in front of a sold-out crowd at John Paul Jones Arena.