Virginia Tech shocked the nation Saturday night when the Hokies upset #2 Virginia 61-60 in an overtime thriller that will be remembered for a long time. The win has pushed the Hokies away from the bubble to playing for seeding in the NCAA Tournament with CBS’s Jerry Palm and USA Today’s Bracketology both having VT on the 8 seed line after previously having VT right on the bubble.
VT has had some big wins in the Buzz Williams era including last year’s New Year’s Eve upset of Duke and the Hokies’ home upset of Virginia back in the 2015-2016 season. However, this was the biggest win of the Buzz Williams’ era. Why? We take a look at all the reasons why here.
1. Virginia Tech Beat the Future #1 Team.
Not only did the Hokies upset Virginia but despite the loss, the Cavaliers still jumped to the top spot in the rankings. That’s a sign of respect to the Hokies that losing to this VT team at home wasn’t enough to keep UVA from the #1 spot after a crazy week of college basketball.
VT has beat really good teams before and for a win to be the best in the Buzz Williams era, that team has to be one of the best. For now, UVA is considered the best team in the country and has established themselves as the kings of the ACC with a significant lead in regular season standings.
According to KPI, one of the most commonly used metrics in college basketball, the Hokies’ win over UVA was the best win for any team in college basketball this season.
D-I MBB KPI Rankings thru 2/11 https://t.co/5kDImAt0bK
— KPI Sports (@KPIsports) February 12, 2018
Not only was this a win over a great team, but this was also a simply impressive road victory especially on the road. The Hokies played their best 45 minutes of basketball this season in Charlottesville and shut down a UVA offense that had been relatively efficient despite not being a high-scoring team. That helps makes this the best win of the Buzz Williams era.
2. The Stage Was As Big As It Could Be.
When Virginia Tech upset Duke, the game came on New Year’s Eve on ESPN2 when everyone’s sporting attention was on college football. When VT beat UVA two seasons ago, the Hokies weren’t even under consideration for the NCAA Tournament and were just trying to make a push for the NIT after a poor non-conference season.
This time, Virginia Tech couldn’t have had a much bigger stage playing in the College GameDay game of the week in primetime on ESPN. While the spotlight was mainly on UVA, being a part of the big game puts you in the spotlight as well, and the Hokies weren’t intimidated by it, but stepped up to the plate instead.
Unlike last season’s win over Duke or the 2015-2016 season win over Virginia, this win over the Hoos was the headline story in college basketball even over Michigan State’s win over Purdue in what was a showdown of top 5 teams. The publicity VT received for this win was the highest since VT was last featured on College GameDay an upset #1 Duke in late February with Dick Vitale famously (and unfortunately wrongly) declaring that the Hokies were Tournament bound.
While the win is definitely significant on the court, its significant and national attention off of it takes it to the next level as it did when the Hokies’ upset Duke in its primetime moment during the Seth Greenberg era.
3. Virginia Tech Won On the Road in a Tough Environment.
This was the first big road win of the Buzz Williams era, something that deserves some separate recognition compared to the big home wins inside the comfortable confines of Cassell Coliseum. The Hokies were only the second unranked team to go to Charlottesville in the past 5 years and leave with a victory. The fact that this VT team added their names to that very short list against a now #1 UVA team is incredible.
Going on the road is never easy in the ACC, but the Hokies have stepped up this season with four road wins over UVA, Notre Dame, Boston College, and Wake Forest with a realistic chance at having a winning road record in ACC play.
While playing at a place like Notre Dame is usually tough, John Paul Jones Arena has become one of the toughest places to play in the ACC since the Hoos’ rise under Tony Bennett. To go on the road into that environment against arguably the best UVA team of the Tony Bennett era is quite impressive.
4. This Game Was a Fight That VT Stayed In When They Could Have Quit.
There were multiple times where Virginia Tech could have folded in this game whether it was the early 13-5 deficit that drew a Buzz Williams timeout, the 9-0 run that allowed UVA to tie the game up early in the second half, or the two-possession lead UVA held late in overtime. All three times, the Hokies fought back against one of college basketball’s best teams and flipped the script that seemed set to write itself in the Hoos’ favor.
The Hokies responded to the Hoos’ 13-5 run by going on a 17-0 run that was one of the most impressive runs any team has had all season especially against UVA’s elite defense. When UVA tied the game up, Virginia Tech turned up the heat on defense and made it a one or two possession difference for the rest of the game in either direction.
In overtime, the Hokies kept the intensity on even when all seemed lost with a two-possession deficit. From Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s big three to Kerry Blackshear’s game-winning rebound and put-back, VT never relented even when John Paul Jones Arena was rocking and trying to consume the Hokies.
Virginia Tech’s fight is a big reason why the Hokies have the potential to finish the season quite strong and push for a third-straight year with an above .500 record in ACC play.