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Zach LeDay and the Hokies came up short against Wisconsin. [Credit: VT Athletics[[/caption]The Virginia Tech Hokies made their return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a decade against a team with plenty of recent success in the Big Dance, the Wisconsin Badgers. The Hokies put up a valiant effort in this game but in the end, Virginia Tech just didn't have enough in the tank against a deeper Wisconsin team and a hot-shooting Bronson Koenig.
Ninth-seeded Virginia Tech came up short against 8 seed Wisconsin 84-74 as the Hokies finish 22-11 on the season while Wisconsin advances to the second round to face number 1 overall seed and defending national champion Villanova. The Hokies cut the Wisconsin lead down to 1 multiple times in the second half but ere never able to tie the game up even when all they needed was a free throw to do just that.
Virginia Tech had a solid night from beyond the arc going 7-for-17 while Wisconsin was slightly better going 13-for-31 though the Hokies shot 46.9% from the field compared to 43.9% for Wisconsin. The Hokies' problems came on the glass as the Hokies were outrebounded 37-25 including 17-6 on the offensive glass, something that proved quite costly in the end for the Hokies with Wisconsin getting some easy second-chance points inside of five feet.
Wisconsin's Bronson Koenig also had a huge game with 28 points on 8-for-17 shooting from beyond the arc that proved critical in the end while Nigel Hayes also had 16 points and 10 rebounds with Ethan Happ being limited to only 10 points and 8 rebounds as Zach LeDay was able to slow Happ down some.
Zach LeDay was the star of the night for the Hokies and while he did foul out in the final minute, LeDay had a big game overall with 23 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks with LeDay having plenty of big dunks and big blocks that brought out some great reactions from the senior big man.
LeDay made a statement on a big stage and ended his collegiate career just as anyone would want to with the senior leaving it all on the court and having a great game in the process. While LeDay's next stop is likely fighting for a NBA roster spot in the Summer League, LeDay will leave Blacksburg with a tremendous legacy for playing a key role in reviving the Virginia Tech basketball program.
Seth Allen was slowed some by a turf toe injury suffered in the first half according to Buzz Williams and though Allen didn't have a good night shooting the ball, he still found ways to make things happen with 10 points, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 0 turnovers in what was a valiant effort from the senior point guard. Allen also deserves a ton of credit like LeDay for helping revive the Virginia Tech basketball program with the role of LeDay and Allen in getting Virginia Tech back to the Big Dance likely not being forgotten anytime in the near future.
Ty Outlaw continued his late season surge tonight with another strong performance as the former JUCO transfer had 16 points and 7 rebounds while going 4-for-7 from beyond the arc. The emergence of Outlaw down the stretch has been quite impressive and looking ahead to the 2017-2018 season, it seems clear that Outlaw will have a big role especially as one of the top three-point shooters in America.
Justin Robinson may have had 3 turnovers and only shot 1-for-7 from the field but had a good night outside of that with 11 points thanks to 9-for-10 free-throw shooting plus 6 assists and 3 rebounds. Meanwhile, Justin Bibbs had 8 points that came from two four-point plays while Ahmed Hill had 4 points and Khadim Sy had 2 points.
While the loss is disappointing, that should also in some ways feel like a good thing as Buzz Williams and this team has helped raise the bar to where simply making the NCAA Tournament is the minimum with the expectation that Virginia Tech can get to the Big Dance and make some noise.
While the Hokies didn't make it out of the first round this year, it's clear that Virginia Tech basketball is once again nationally relevant and that we won't be seeing a 10-year gap between NCAA Tournament appearances again anytime in the near future.
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