Just under 2 months ago, Virginia Tech was 10-10 overall and dead last in the ACC at 2-7 seemingly left for dead. While most teams would have folded, the Hokies did not winning 12 of their past 14 games and reaching their first ACC Tournament final ever and there first conference tournament final of any sorts since 1984.
On the other side awaits 1 seed Duke who might be hoping that there is an outside shot at a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament with a win while also wanting to send Coach K out of ACC competition with an ACC Tournament title.
So will the favored Blue Devils get the job done or will the Hokies' dream run not only book their NCAA Tournament ticket but also give them their first conference tournament title since 1979? Here are our TLP staff's picks for Virginia Tech against Duke in the 2022 ACC Tournament championship.
Virginia Tech has finally reached their first conference tournament for the first time since 1984 in a season where that seemed completely unimaginable just several weeks ago when Tech was 10-10 overall and 2-7 in ACC play.
Now, the Hokies face Duke for the second time this season after the two played a very entertaining game in Cameron Indoor back in December during which the Hokies had a good lead early in the second half before Paolo Banchero showed why he's a potential #1 overall pick with a dominant second half along with AJ Griffin finding his form.
Both teams have plenty of motivation and though Duke has plenty with this being Coach K's last ACC game, they also have lots of pressure given that. Meanwhile, the Hokies know that a win ensures that there will be no sweat tomorrow wondering if they will make the NCAA Tournament while a loss means a nervy Selection Sunday.
Tech's experience should definitely help while they will need their three-point shooting that has been stronger lately to stay strong and not go Jekyll and Hyde in this game. If it does, the Hokies will not have a chance.
Unlike last night against UNC where you knew Armando Bacot would get his and the focus could be to contain others, Duke has too much talent to approach it that way from Paolo Banchero to Wendell Moore to Trevor Keels to Jeremy Roach. Tech will have to try to control the tempo of this game though as they did last night preventing this from being a track meet that would certainly favor Duke over the experienced, methodical Hokies.
While Tech's experience will prove beneficial tonight, I think Duke has too much talent and will handle the pressure well enough to beat the Hokies setting up for a nervy Selection Sunday in Blacksburg.
Prediction: Duke 76, Virginia Tech 70
A golden opportunity lies ahead for Virginia Tech with an automatic bid on the line in the ACC Tournament championship. The Hokies came into the week knowing that they needed a solid run to make some national noise to bolster their NCAA Tournament odds.
But now they have a shot at winning the whole dang thing.
It will not be an easy task by any means as they will battle the No. 1 seeded Duke Blue Devils. Throughout conference play, Duke was the team to beat in the ACC with the most talented roster. But during the tournament, Duke hasn’t looked all that dominant as they have struggled against Syracuse and Miami.
The Hokies have taken on this underdog mentality and they could fill that role again if they come out strong. The biggest battle the Hokies may face all night may not be a physical object, but rather themselves.
It will the fourth game in as many days for the Hokies, so it will be intriguing to see how energized they will come out tonight. The Hokies are the hot team, but Duke is the strong team and it will take a mighty effort from Mike Young and Co. to pull off the upset.
Prediction: Duke 83, Virginia Tech 71
The Hokies are about as much on the bubble as a team can be. This may be the ACC Tournament championship, but it is the start of the NCAA Tournament for Tech.
Storm Murphy has been on a tear lately, feeling confident in his jumper and willing to finish at the rim. That will be an essential key to this game. He has been bothered by athletic guards who pressure him bringing the ball up the floor which disrupts the entire offense. Duke has the ability to do that, but Murphy seemed adept at beating defenders off the dribble against UNC and he’ll need that to continue tonight.
Tech has also been able to respond to opponents’ runs well this tournament by feeding either Mutts or Aluma on the block where they have been highly effective. Duke has the rim protection, athleticism, and depth to mitigate Tech’s front court. The Hokies might have to rely a bit more on their very good three point shooting if Aluma or Mutts can’t get anything going inside. That type of offense can be streaky, and can leave the Hokies vulnerable to a huge run which happened in the first meeting at Duke.
Duke has shown some vulnerability this tournament, having to come back from halftime deficits in two straight. Meanwhile, Tech has had the lead at halftime in three ACCT games and come out with three victories.
Overall, I think Duke has a little bit too much size and that will wear the Hokies down as the game goes on. With the Hokies fighting for their season, I expect it to go down to the wire.
Prediction: Duke 73, Virginia Tech 68
Paolo Banchero and the Duke Blue Devils await the Hokies in what should be a fun matchup. Last time out, the Hokies hung with Duke for most of the game until the wheels came off in the second half. Banchero realized he could attack the rim repeatedly on the Hokies and he took advantage of it. Tonight, the Hokies will need to bring the same defensive intensity they showed last night against UNC. Last night, their rotation was great and they game-planned for Armando Bacot well with their defensive rotations and double teams being timely.
Banchero and the Devils present a different challenge defensively with the level of NBA talent they possess. AJ Griffin, Trevor Keels, and center Mark Williams represent the challenge the Devils bring offensively as they have multiple areas of attack.
Meanwhile, the Hokies are coming off holding UNC to shooting 22 of 60 from the field (36.5%) and 3 of 26 from three (11.5%). Against UNC, they forced the Tar Heels to take tough contested threes instead of living in the paint with Bacot and Brady Manek. Hopefully, they can make Duke do the same. Both teams rank in the top five in opponent field goal percentage allowed from three (Duke- 1st with .310 allowed and VT- 4th with .320 allowed) so the matchup on the perimeter will be one to especially watch tonight.
On paper, the Blue Devils possess the talent to wreck any team and are one that could possibly win a national title. However, facing Virginia Tech, a team that’s coming out hot and on a roll since their last second victory over Clemson will be no easy task either.
I think the Hokies maintain their level of hot shooting and production from their bench that helped them succeed against Notre Dame and UNC. Maddox and Pedulla have provided great lift off the bench and if the Hokies can continue to have Storm Murphy be aggressive and hitting his shots, they’ll get the help they need to run alongside of Aluma’s leading offensive production (15.7 PPG). I learned last night not to bet against this hot Hokies team and I will not bet against them tonight. Hokies win this one in a close battle and win their first ever ACC Tournament title in their first time reaching the championship game.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 68, Duke 64
Coming off an improbable run to get to this point, 7 seed Virginia Tech will have their hands full with one seeded Duke. In the earlier December matchup, the Hokies looked overmatched by the Blue Devils on all fronts. They were outshot from the field 53% to 46% and from three 33% to 26%. Duke also notched eight steals and six blocks and held Tech to 29 second half points. Still, Virginia Tech showed signs in that game that prove they can hang with Duke. The rebounding category was nearly even at a 32-31 advantage for Duke. The Hokies also had a 36-32 lead at halftime. Keve Aluma and Justyn Mutts both carried the Hokies offense scoring a combined 45 points.
For the Duke Blue Devils, this will be a historic night regardless of the outcome. It’s Coach K’s last ACC Tournament game and they’ll want to send the man who made them a college basketball powerhouse out the right way. Ever since losing to UNC in Coach K’s final home game, this team has been on a mission. Their offense has been hot and averaged 84 points in the two tournament games. They're also dominating the glass as have grabbed 41.5 rebounds in those same games.
Of course, Duke is stacked with NBA caliber athletes from head to toe. Captain Wendell Moore Jr. has led the way with 26 points and 8 assists against Syracuse. Stellar freshmen Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin heated up against Miami to guide Duke to the championship game. The key for Duke to take care of business against Virginia Tech will be to have a good outside shooting night. When Duke shoots 37% or better from three-point range, they’re 15-1 on the season. Mark Williams must be a major factor on the glass and when it comes to defending the likes of Aluma and Mutts in the post.
On the other side of the coin, Virginia Tech is continuing to make their case as to why they should be in the field of 68. One more win and that case will be cemented officially. Tech has played an extra game compared to Duke but they’re the team of destiny in this tournament nonetheless. Tech has been a lights out three point shooting team all year long at just under 42% from deep.
They’ve carried that hot shooting over to the Barclays Center as they’ve shot 41.6% from three in Brooklyn. 2nd Team All-ACC member Keve Aluma has been the consistent rock at the center of Virginia Tech’s run. He’s averaging 19 ppg on 51/45/83 efficiency splits in the tournament. While Aluma hasn’t been the flashy performer, sophomore Darius Maddox has. Maddox hit the game winning buzzer beater against Clemson and scored a career high 20 points with four made threes two nights later against UNC. An x-factor for Virginia Tech will be to limit Duke’s points in the paint. Storm Murphy will also be a major key for Tech has he’s found his stroke from three as he’s shooting 50% in his last three games.
Prediction: Duke 71, Virginia Tech 68
Wow. Virginia Tech men’s basketball is playing for an ACC championship. Who would’ve thought?
From one of the more disappointing starts, to one of the more exhilarating finishes, Tech’s made history in the 2021-22 campaign. And the best part is, it’s far from over.
At 2-7 in the ACC and 10-10 overall, the Hokies were left for dead. Since then, though, winners of 12-of-14, Tech have played themselves back into the conversation and to me, have locked themselves up into the field of 68.
Why leave it in the committee's hands, though, when you just can secure the automatic bid by winning the ACC? That’s the tricky part.
With the top-seeded Duke Blue Devils awaiting Virginia Tech’s arrival, Mike Young’s team will be facing their toughest test of the season. The good news is, the Hokies are playing their best basketball of the year, almost at a determined pace from a Virginia Tech team that we’ve never seen before.
Keve Aluma and Justyn Mutts have been superb down low. Storm Murphy has been what we all thought he’d be at the top of the key. Nahiem Alleyne and Hunter Cattoor have been lock down defensively, while Darius Maddox, Sean Pedulla and David N’Guessan have been outstanding off the bench.
It’s all clicking for Virginia Tech. The problem is, it just feels like Duke is going to get hot playing for head coach Mike Krzyzewski in his curtain call as the Blue Devils’ head coach.
Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin, Wendell Moore Jr., those guys are all going to be a haul to deal with this evening. And while I think the Hokies can keep pace and make it difficult for Duke to go on a second-half surge as they did in Cameron Indoor earlier this year, it just seems like tonight is the Blue Devils’ for the taking.
Duke wins a close one over Virginia Tech, leaving the Hokies anxiously awaiting Selection Sunday.