Tomorrow night, the most pivotal game of the Virginia Tech basketball season will come down to a matchup between the Hokies and Louisville.
Of course it will.
Much is written about the rivalry between Virginia Tech and those neighbors to the East in Charlottesville, but when you are discussing a pure and intense rival for another team in basketball, nobody stokes the fires for me like Louisville. I'm sure there's a better and more diplomatic way to say it, but I just don't like them.
Should you be too young to remember, it was the Cardinals who led the movement to cast the Hokie basketball program into the desert to wander around in search of a permanent home for many years back in the mid-1990s. Virginia Tech had joined what was then the Metro-7 in 1978, sharing a league with the likes of Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Memphis, St. Louis, Tulane and Florida State.
Georgia Tech had just left the Metro to become the 8th member of the Atlantic Coast Conference after South Carolina had left, and the Hokies took their place. Eventually, South Carolina would join too in 1983 and as basketball conferences went, it was a pretty stout league.
Louisville, because they would win national championships in 1980 and 1986 under Coach Denny Crum, thought they owned the league. Much like Duke and North Carolina have always pushed the non-tobacco road schools in the ACC, Louisville held the role in the Metro. What they wanted, it seemed, they got.
But not in the Hokies’ first year in the league. Virginia Tech finished 4th in the Metro that initial regular season, then beat Cincinnati in the first round of the Metro Tournament. Dale Solomon was an imposing force for the Hokies in the middle, but in the second-round game against Louisville, he did not play due to a death in the family. The 13th-ranked Cardinals, with players like Darrell Griffith and Scooter McCray, expected to breeze past VT on the way to winning the tournament.