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Virginia In West, Plays Ohio; Hokies In South, Face Florida

The pairings for the NCAA Tournament were just announced, with Virginia Tech dropping to a 10th seed in the South Region and will face No. 7 seed Florida. Virginia's COVID issues in the ACC Tournament did not affect their ability to play in the NCAAs, and they enter the tournament as a 4th seed in the West Region and will open with No. 13 Ohio.

Should the Hokies get past Florida, they would then have to play the winner of Ohio State-Oral Roberts, which more than likely will be the No. 2 Buckeyes. Baylor is the top seed in the South. Technically, since there was no tournament last year, this is the fourth straight year the Hokies have made the NCAA's. The No. 10 seed, however, is the lowest Virginia Tech has ever received. 

The committee seems to want a rematch of Virginia and Gonzaga, as they are both in the West. The Cavaliers would face the winner of Creighton-UCSB in the second round should they advance. Gonzaga is the top seed in the West and the No. 1 seed in the entire tournament.

Florida had a ho-hum 14-9 season where they were only ranked for one week all season, coming in at No. 22 the first week of February. This came after an 85-80 win over then No. 11 West Virginia, but the Gators then lost their next two games to South Carolina and Arkansas respectively, and fell out of the rankings.

Virginia Tech, conversely, was only unranked one week in December, coming into the NCAA Tournament being ranked 12 consecutive weeks. But they will be the lower seed at No. 10.

Florida lost its last two regular-season games to Missouri and Tennessee, then beat Vanderbilt in the first round of the SEC Tournament before being eliminated by Tennessee.

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A Storm Is Coming To Virginia Tech

If Coach Mike Young were to draw up a wish list for components he would like to add to Virginia Tech’s basketball team next season, one undoubtedly would be a point guard who can shoot and score.

Tonight, he got one.

Storm Murphy, who played for Young at Wofford, will be reunited with his former coach, as he announced on Twitter he’s coming to Blacksburg.

Murphy tweeted “I’m excited to announce that next year I will be transferring to Virginia Tech and joining Coach Young for one last run,” barely a week after he announced he would be entering the transfer portal.

Murphy is a 6-foot, 180-pound guard from Middleton, Wisconsin, and there were some thoughts he may transfer to a school closer to home. But he quickly picked the Hokies, where he will be playing in a system he already knows, and for a team with a definite need for the things he can contribute.

Murphy averaged 17.8 points per game in the 2020-2021 season, along with 4.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds. He shot 47 percent from the floor for a Wofford team that went 15-9 and finished second in the Southern Conference behind UNC-Greensboro. He has played four years at Wofford, but as a graduate transfer, has a fifth year of eligibility which he will be able to use playing for the Hokies.

Murphy was a first-team All-Southern Conference selection in 2020-21, and finished fourth in the league in scoring. In his final game for Wofford in a 62-61 loss to Mercer in the Southern Conference tournament, Murphy had 21 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists while playing 36 minutes.

Murphy scored 1,315 points in his four seasons at Wofford, had 469 assists, and started 119 of 126 games. He's a career 42% three-point shooter, and hit 85% of his career free throws.

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Hokies Need Aluma To Bounce Back In NCAA Tournament

Virginia Tech big man Keve Aluma has been stellar this season, as the second-team All-ACC center played a large role in the Hokies' regular-season success this year.

But last night against North Carolina, he also played a role in their demise.

North Carolina surged past the Hokies in the second half, winning 81-73 in the quarterfinal of the ACC Tournament. That surge, in large part, started with the Tar Heels' regaining supremacy under the basket in the second half.

Virginia Tech controlled the paint in the first half, and it was a team effort. The Hokies bodied up down low and won all the relevant paint stats — points in the paint, rebound margin, second chance points. Tech denied entry to the paint and after an exhaustive performance, Tech earned themselves a three-point lead.

That exhaustive performance, however, wasn't sustainable with the Hokies essentially playing only six players the entire game.

Carolina's cadre of big men — Armando Bacot, Day'Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler — proved too much for Virginia Tech to contend with. The trio combined for 31 points, 25 rebounds and six blocks. And more importantly, they were extremely physical with Aluma down low.

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Hokies May Have Lost, But They Certainly Showed An Edge

This is one of those times where after watching a Virginia Tech basketball game, I don’t really know what to say.

Yeah, they lost to a North Carolina team with more height and a bigger number of talented bodies. Yeah, they ended up being that No. 3 seed who was one and done like everyone said they would be with an 81-73 loss to the Tar Heels in the ACC Tournament.

But if you watched closely, they also did some things that really paint what could be a very bright future. Mike Young had a brilliant game plan to neutralize the big height advantage North Carolina had, and the Hokies ended up leading at halftime as they continued to play tough defense, slash the middle and run double back screens that got their big men open for layups.

But what impressed me the most was while doing so – at least until the team ran out of gas in the second half – was that Virginia Tech played with a noticeable edge. Mike Young has managed to find a number of components that he’s melded into a very good team, but if there’s been a concern, it’s that the team has played at times a little like the first part of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary.”

For the majority of the season, they played – like Tina sings the first verse – nice…and easy. Too easy at times it seems, and big physical teams could knock them not only around, but also knock them mentally out of their game.

Against North Carolina, the Hokies were more like how Tina sings the second verse, where they do it nice…and rough. Virginia Tech played with an edge that I haven’t seen very often this season, as Justyn Mutts – who led all scorers with 24 points – had a breakout game and showed offensive skills that were equal parts aggression and nasty.

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With Duke Cancellation, FSU Now Gets Triple Bye

It wasn’t 24 hours ago that there was some hope Virginia Tech might get an easier draw in the ACC Tournament.

Notre Dame was facing North Carolina, and since the Irish had only lost by one point the last time the two teams plays, there was hope they could either upset the Tar Heels or at least wear them out. Instead, they went to sleep when it was only a 12-point game, UNC went on a 42-4 run, and Notre Dame turned to roadkill on the side of the highway leading to the ACC Championship.

The final was 101-59, but the second half wasn’t even that close. It’s rare these days to even see a team score over 100 points in the ACC Tournament (last time UNC did was 1993), and 42-4 runs are just about impossible unless half the team is injured and only four players can continue. The Tar Heels should now be comfortable and confident for tonight's game with Virginia Tech.

But now the road is even tougher.

Should the Hokies pull off the upset tonight (which would technically not be an upset since Virginia Tech is the No. 3 seed), they would then have to face a Florida State team receiving an unheard of triple bye. It was reported this morning that a Duke player received a positive COVID test, and because of that, the Blue Devils will forfeit their next-round game in the tournament against the Seminoles.

“The Atlantic Coast Conference announced today that the Duke vs. Florida State ACC men’s basketball tournament quarterfinal game has been canceled,” the ACC posted on its website. “The postponement follows a positive test, subsequent quarantining, and contact tracing within the Duke men’s basketball program.”

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Keep An Eye On ND-UNC Game If You're A Hokie Fan

Day One of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament was just about all you could hope for. There was one decent game, one snoozefest, and one furious finish with a buzzer beater that just might help Virginia Tech Thursday.

Miami beat Pitt 79-73 in the first game, which was good, but not great. It was like two fat men sumo wrestling in a vat of chocolate pudding in an empty arena. One would make a move, the other would slowly answer. That kept it close, so you kept watching, but this was not a tape that was going to replayed at coaching clinics.

Finally, one of the fat men got tired, didn’t get up out of the mud to answer, and Miami ended up winning. The Hurricanes will be facing a Clemson team today where the pudding should be thicker and the opponent a bit leaner and active.

The second game reminded me of the Tom Clancy novel “The Sum of All Fears,” as Duke put together a decent game, made a boat load of three pointers, and the pundits rejoiced for a team that was now one game over .500 this season. I turned on ESPN this morning, and the chyron on the bottom of the screen asks “can Duke run the gauntlet?”

Dear ESPN: Of course they can’t. They’d have to win 5 games in 5 days. The most they’ve won all season is 4 in a row over 9 days. What are you, drunk?

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If Duke's A 20-1 Favorite, Then I'm A Unicorn

Today it begins.

Three games in the ACC Tournament are on tap, with Pitt playing Miami at 2, it's Duke versus Boston College at 4:30, and Notre Dame against Wake Forest at 7:30. All three games are on the ACC Network, meaning a heck of a lot of basketball fans who get their cable television from Comcast won't be watching.

None of these games are very compelling, so I decided to take a look at the betting odds to see which ones may be closer than I think. In the the course of doing this, it became apparent as to which team to pull against.

Starts with a "D", ends with an "e." Likes the color blue.

According to BetMGM, and posted in a story today in the Athletic, Virginia is the top favorite at 5-2. The Cavaliers should be, as they are the top seed and until someone tells me otherwise, have the last national championship trophy awarded sitting somewhere inside John Paul Jones Arena. Florida State is barely behind the Cavaliers at 11-4, and that’s understandable too, since they led the league down the stretch, and hammered Virginia in the last game between the two teams before laying an egg the size of Plymouth Rock against Notre Dame in the regular-season finale.

Virginia Tech and Louisville are both 7-1 favorites, and that seems fair too, considering how they finished the season.

But then you scroll down to Duke. They are 20-1 favorites.

Excuse me sir, you must be new here. You’re playing in the first-round play-in games on a Tuesday. You finished in 10th place in a 15-team league. Your odds should be 1000 to 1, as no one wins 5 games in 5 days in a tournament. Plus it’s not like Duke didn’t earn that appearance on day 1, either. Duke doesn’t even have a winning record, finishing the regular season at 11-11. The Blue Devils lost their last three games in a row to finish the regular slate, including a 91-73 thrashing at the hands of North Carolina.

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I'm Begging You Virginia Tech, Take My Money

A month ago, I wrote this story, saying how much I wanted a tin of popcorn with Mike Young's aging mug on it. 

Now I want more.

That request was for something I could send out to friends at Christmas time who were fellow Hokie fans. Everyone likes flavored popcorn, and there'd be no better way to say "Go Hokies" to friends in the middle of basketball season than a tub of it with the basketball coach's image on it.

But today's news warrants something extra. Perhaps a limited edition can to commemorate Mike Young winning the ACC Coach Of The Year honors.

The popcorn would still taste as sweet, but it would be something that would be more of a collector's item to remind you of what a memorable season this has been. It could be a limited edition run of only so many cans, and when those were sold, there would be no more.

Before you laugh, I have boxes of cereal from the 1990s commemorating Virginia Tech successes on the football field. You can buy old Sports Illustrated editions with Michael Vick on the cover for far more than what they cost back in the day. People like to have things that remind them of a happy time years ago. 

Exhibit A would be the tin of popcorn sitting on a shelf here in my office that says "Washington Nationals, 2019 National Champions." The popcorn was long gone only a few days after the tin arrived at my home

But it’s not going to ever be thrown away. Nor would a limited edition tin of Mike winning Coach Of The year. 

So to the good people in the marketing department at Virginia Tech, take my money. Give me a reason to overpay for popcorn. Force me to join the Hokie Club if you have to, but there's money on the table all across Hokie Nation.

Give me a reason to send it to you.

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Mike Young: A Very Deserved ACC Coach Of The Year Winner

Virginia Tech’s Mike Young has been named the Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of The Year, and for a minute there, I got a little nervous yesterday about whether he was going to gain the honor or not.

Pockets of people on social media were doing the old “let me dig up statistics and bend them to support my opinion” on social media, and there seemed to be some who thought Georgia Tech’s Josh Pastner was more deserving.

Some of the people saying this I like. Some of them I even admire. Some of them, I've always thought, are totally clueless.

To overlook Young as Coach of the year is to overlook just what the term “coach” means. You can look at it as an X’s and O’s game manager, and if you do, I suppose digging up stats to say your team had more wins on the road against teams ranked in the top 25 while the moon is in its waxing Crescent phase and Jay Bilas is involved in the ESPN broadcast might mean something.

But to me, a coach is more than a basketball strategist. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important. But he’s also a teacher, psychiatrist, talent evaluator, cheerleader, mentor, salesman, tough love kind of guy and second Dad. Young was all of those things, and he needed every skill he had to pull off the miracle that is Virginia Tech basketball finishing 3rd in the conference this season.

It was less than two years ago that Young took over a program that had been rebuilt by Buzz Williams, but after reaching the pinnacle of his 5 years in Blacksburg, he left the cupboard bare. Many coaches also find similar situations when taking over a program, but the Hokies weren’t even a couple of good leftover players and 5 guys from the Y. In fact, they didn’t even have 5 guys on the roster.

Buzz did a masterful job in his 5 years in Blacksburg, but he sold recruits on himself. Play for me, Buzz said, and you will be noticed by the NBA. Play for me, and I’ll teach you the game that will get you to the next level. That’s not a criticism of Buzz by any means, but it did mean when Buzz left, players left too. The reason they came to Blacksburg wasn’t UT Prosim and Hokie, Hokie Hi. It was Buzz Williams, who was now in Texas.

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As No.3 Seed, Hokies Will Now Participate In The Late Show

As I’ve always known, the best way to jinx something you’d like to see happen is to write about it.

So yesterday, when I wrote this about not wanting to play in the 9 PM game Thursday or be in the same bracket as Florida State, I just about guaranteed those two things would happen. And indeed, the two things that needed to happen to force that scenario occurred within hours of me saying it.

The first was Notre Dame’s shocking 83-73 upset of the Seminoles, throwing them into the group of teams at the top of the standings with four losses (the other three at the time being Virginia, Louisville and Virginia Tech), then Virginia excused the Cardinals from the group by handing them their fifth league loss of the season.

When the smoke cleared, Virginia was in first by virtue of having played two more games than Florida State, so their .765 winning percentage made them the top seed, while the Seminoles .733 percentage dropped them to second. The Hokies moved up to the No. 3 seed, which ties for the highest seed the Hokies have ever claimed in the ACC Tournament (Seth Greenberg did it in the 2006-2007 season), while Georgia Tech filled Louisville’s vacancy to take the 4th seed.

Louisville, by losing, got drop-kicked all the way down to the 7th seed. Virginia Tech WILL now be in the 9 PM (or later) game Thursday night and they WILL be in the same bracket as Florida State.

But it’s not all bad.

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I'm Pulling For The 2:30 Game And Avoiding Ga. Tech

Today is not the regular-season finale kind of day I thought it would be for Virginia Tech’s basketball team.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been an incredible and surprising season. Remember that feeling after upsetting No. 3 Villanova right after Thanksgiving? And wondering who this Keve Aluma guy was? Or beating Duke AND Virginia at Cassell? Or being ranked every week of the regular season like a big dog with the exception of one week, where pollsters punished the Hokies for losing to lowly Penn State?

I expected few to none of those things to happen in November, so no matter how the season finishes, it’s already been a great one. But with such flashes of potential during the season, today was suppose to be the day we all were locked in our chairs, watching every other ACC game to determine tournament possibilities, and hopefully ending the regular season on a high note.

Instead, it’s kind of lonely. The regular season ended with whimper, not a bang. Finishing in the top 4 and getting a double bye into the ACC Tournament should have been cause for celebration. Now it’s cause for concern.

We all know the story about how sitting on the sidelines affects a team, because we heard it often enough back on Feb. 23, when the Hokies played their first game after 3 postponements and 17 days of inactivity. The Hokies not only know the story, they lived it, showing the same rust everyone else did in losing 69-53 to Georgia Tech.

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