If there is any indication of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee revealing their early Top 16 seeds on Saturday, it’s that RPI Top 50 wins matter.
The Virginia Tech Hokies (16-7, 5-6 ACC) will look for their second Top 50 win of the season on Sunday afternoon as they look for the season-split against 12th-ranked in-state rival, Virginia (18-5, 8-3 ACC), at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg. Squarely on the tournament bubble, a win in this spot would do wonders for the Hokies’ tournament hopes with less than a month to play before Selection Sunday.
Virginia Tech dropped the first meeting to Virginia on February 1st in Charlottesville, a game in which the Hokies shot 3-for-20 from three. The Hokies also were out-rebounded 37-22 in the contest, a major reason why Virginia was able to grind out a 23-point win in a game that was never really close.
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As I outlined here, the Hokies need to do a much better job at taking care of the basketball and rebounding on Sunday evening if they want to have an opportunity to compete against a very, very good Virginia team at home. As good as Virginia is, the Hokies have historically done an adequate job at hanging with them when playing them at Cassell.
A sold-out crowd is expected for the contest, and hopefully the players will be able to feed off of the energy to string together consecutive stops against the Cavaliers’ offense. The defensive pressure from the array of zone defenses that Buzz Williams has in his arsenal will have to be as good as it has been all season long to give the Hokies a legitimate chance in this one. Justin Robinson and Seth Allen, when playing together, need to be much better defensively at the top of the zone than they have been when playing in the same lineup. It is clear that Buzz Williams is exchanging some defense for offense when playing Robinson and Allen together, but any improvement on the other end of the floor would greatly benefit the Hokies on Sunday evening.
If this game becomes a grind-it-out contest as most are expecting it to be with Virginia’s stout defense, the Hokies may benefit from feeding the ball to Zach LeDay a bit more than they did in the first match-up. In 29 minutes of game action in the first tilt, the Hokies’ most effective offensive big scored 12 points on three-for-six shooting from the floor, and made six-of-eight free throws. If the Hokies get to the free throw line and knock down their attempts, they will continue to hang around in this re-match.
The Hokies and Cavaliers tip at 6:30 PM on Sunday evening at Cassell Coliseum. The game will be televised on ESPNU.