Virginia Tech opens its quest for back to back ACC Men's Tournament titles Tuesday night at 7 p.m. when they face Notre Dame in the first round from the Greensboro Coliseum. The Hokies come in with the 11 seed in the tournament while the Fighting Irish finished at the 14 line. Earlier this season, Tech faced Notre Dame in South Bend and came away with a 93-87 victory, their first and only road win in ACC play of the season.
How Virginia Tech Can Win:
The Hokies come into their opening ACC Tournament contest at 18-13 and 8-12 in ACC play. Tech did end up victorious in their final conference bout, handling Florida State 82-60 on senior night. The Hokies saw big time performances from Sean Pedulla, who scored 25 points and made six three pointers, and Hunter Cattoor, who scored 14 points and nailed four triples himself.
Tech has won two-straight coming into Greensboro defeating Louisville in the KFC Yum Center 71-54 prior to the Florida State victory. The Hokies fell to Duke and Miami before their back to back wins to close the regular season. Still, Tech’s two wins over other teams playing on day one bodes well for their chances Tuesday night.
In looking back to the Hokies and Irish’s first game, it was a shootout of a contest with 180 combined points between the two squads. Grant Basile was the Hokies’ headline performer, scoring a season-high 33 points on 13-19 shooting from the floor. Statistically, Tech was extremely efficient in all facets of their offensive game.
The Hokies shot 57% from the field, 42% from three point range and were money at the free throw line at 80% on 20-25 shots at the foul line. Additionally, Tech only committed five turnovers, one of their lowest outputs of the season. The Hokies need to continue these trends against the Irish again if they want to survive and advance to round two.
How Notre Dame Can Win:
Notre Dame comes into the ACC Tournament holding the second worst record in the ACC at 11-20 overall and 3-17 in ACC play. The Irish closed out the season with an 87-64 road loss to Clemson and dropped eight of their final nine conference games. The lone victory, however, was a standout one as the Irish defeated the fifth-seeded Pittsburgh Panthers in their final bout at the Joyce Center.
Notre Dame outlasted Pitt 88-81 and sent off legendary coach Mike Brey with a decisive victory in his final game in front of the South Bend faithful. Though the Irish pose a weak threat when looking at their record, they do have flashes of a potent offense. Notre Dame has scored over 80 points in three conference games, including the one they lost to Virginia Tech.
On the Irish side for their game against the Hokies, Nate Laszewski scored 33 points on 12-17 shooting to match Basile’s 33. Efficient shooting was a common theme for the Irish as they shot 54% from the field, 43% from behind the arc, and 85% at the charity stripe. Notre Dame was also held to just six turnovers as well. Both teams seemed to match each other but the Irish were less effective as the game wore on.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 86, Notre Dame 80
The Hokies had enough offensive juice to beat the Irish back in mid-February. I believe they will have the same offensive juice in the ACC Tournament. Both defenses aren’t set up for success but do have the interior scoring and guard play to challenge each other. Cattoor and Basile will be the keys to success as they must outplay Notre Dame’s Laszewski and Cormac Ryan as they have done previously given the scoring talents of those four. If Tech’s guards outplay those of the Irish and Basile goes off again, the Hokies will be in good shape to advance to round two in Greensboro.