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Three Thoughts on Virginia Tech's 63-59 Loss to Clemson

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Virginia Tech's margin for error was about 0 entering today and unfortunately for the Hokies, it's now gone along with their NCAA at-large bid hopes most likely as the Hokies lost at Clemson 63-59. While it is a Q2 loss for Tech, the Hokies were already on the wrong side of the bubble and a loss to a mediocre Clemson team pushes them back down the ladder to a spot where Tech may not have enough quality opportunities prior to an ACC Tournament final to rebuild their resume.

Nahiem Alleyne led the Hokies with 17 points while Justyn Mutts added 15, but a quiet day for Keve Aluma and poor shooting from three-point range in the second half especially while being at least in the bonus for over 8 minutes in the final 20 proved costly. Clemson's bench also made a difference with PJ Hall having 12, Alex Hemenway having 11, and Al-Amir Dawes having 10 while the Tigers also shot 50% from the field in the second half with VT shooting 30.8%.

With all that said, here are my three thoughts after the Hokies' 63-59 loss at Clemson.

1. Quiet Day From Keve Aluma

It was a bad day for Keve Aluma to have a quiet day but that was the case offensively as he had only 8 points on 3-8 shooting from the field. While he did have 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks; Aluma's quiet day especially down low proved costly for the Hokies with a couple potential reasons for it.

Mike Young has said in the past after games earlier this season that he felt he may not have gotten Aluma enough touches down low. That was the case today as Aluma was on the perimeter way too much which may have been both by his volition and by schematics from Mike Young.

Aluma did have some success driving at the rim, but there weren't enough of those trademark Aluma post-ups and hook shots that would have helped the Hokies out a lot down the stretch. Instead, Aluma being more out on the perimeter allowed Clemson to play a little tighter on the perimeter instead of ahving to collapse in the paint defensively.

Of course, Clemson probably deserves some credit for doing well at limiting ALuma's paint touches and opportunities. However, Tech could have definitely done a much better job at feeding Aluma down low down the stretch especially given that the matchup would be against either P.J. Hall and his four fouls or a lesser big man.

Virginia Tech needs Keve Aluma to be effective offensively in the paint to be at their best and today, that was far from the case. If Tech is going to make a deep run in the ACC Tournament, there has to be more Aluma in the paint rather than an overwhelming amount of Aluma perimeter touches.

2. Hot and Cold From Three-Point Range

Virginia Tech's three-point shooting was once again inconsistent as the Hokies were a solid 7-17 (41.2%) in the first half before shooting 2-13 (15.4%) from deep in the second half. Nahiem Alleyne deserves plenty of credit as he was 5-10 from three though he was 4-5 in the first half and then went cold at the very end after being given some tough shots late in the shot clock as well.

One issue looking at the numbers is the fact that Hunter Cattoor and Sean Pedulla, who were a combined 1-8 (1-5 for Cattoor and 0-3 for Pedulla) while Darius Maddox didn't play much in the closing stretch and only was 1-2 from three. Maddox has emerged as Tech's best three-point shooter and though Cattoor is a better defender, Maddox should have absolutely been in that game given that Tech was behind and needed shots.

Additionally, Tech leaned on the three too much down the stretch when they weren't falling after part of the reason for their comeback at Miami was because of Sean Pedulla getting to the rim. What made it worse was the fact that Clemson was in the double bonus for almost the full five minutes yet they didn't attack the rim nearly as much as they should have not only to try to draw fouls at the rim but also on reach ins via aggressive drives.

While Tech did better than the UNC game when they failed to get to the line despite being in the bonus for more than 9 minutes, Tech should have been at the free-throw line a lot more. Yes, there were a couple calls that could've gone the other way but Tech was hunting for threes while they were cold way more than they should have been instead of attacking the rim for higher percentage shots or more likely foul opportunities.

The Hokies' hot and cold three-point shooting returned today and while some may say that Tech is a "live by the three, die by the three" team that died by the three today, that was due to a bad choice above all else in this game.

3. On The Ropes for March Madness

While this may only be a Q2 loss, a loss to a mediocre Clemson on the road is a setback for the Hokies. At a time when much of the bubble has held serve against weaker opponents while failing to win big games against top competition, Tech has suffered a not so good Q2 loss similar to Oregon's loss at Washington that caused them to drop a couple rungs down the bubble ladder.

Going into this game, the thought process was that if Tech could win this one, then reaching the ACC Tournament semifinals (2 wins) would give the Hokies a strong chance while only 1 win in Brooklyn would have them very central on the bubble. Now, it feels like the Hokies will need to at least reach the ACC Tournament to have a chance though given that Tech only has 1 Q1 win currently and 2 Q3 losses plus a 19-12 overall record in a down ACC, I would advise winning the ACC Tournament to state the obvious.

Of course, Tech continues to be boosted by their strong predictive metrics with Tech's NET entering the day ranking #32 and likely only to drop a few spots given that this is a road Q2 loss. However, the Hokies will likely need to get their NET back into the top 30-32 to feel that they have a good chance which likely would require them to reach at least the ACC Tournament final and pick up some style points along the way.

Tech's non-conference strength of schedule also continues to boost the Hokies for the first time likely in the 21st Century (probably, fact check me if I'm wrong but it has been rare).

Virginia Tech does have a favorable draw in terms of matchups and a path to reaching the ACC Tournament being on the opposite side of Duke along with North Carolina who is a bad matchup for the Hokies. Miami, Notre Dame, and UVA are probably the 3 better matchups for Tech across the board among the top 7 teams in the ACC while having the chance to likely get revenge against 10 seed Clemson is favorable to.

On the contrast, the 3 neutral site Q1 win opportunities in the ACC currently for Tech would be against Duke, UNC, and Wake Forest; all on the other side of the bracket. Notre Dame is close to the top 50 though and if the Irish can sneak in and then Tech can beat the #2 seed Fighting Irish in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals, that would be a big boost to their hopes.

Virginia Tech's hopes of reaching the NCAA Tournament as an at-large bid are almost completely toast, but there is still a thin, steep gauntlet that may give them a chance next week in Brooklyn.

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