Virginia Tech Basketball NCAA Tournament Watch March 2nd Edition

Virginia Tech Basketball NCAA Tournament Watch March 2nd Edition

Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP

TLP: Editor
Mar 02, 2019

March is here and for the first time in a long time, there is no doubt that Virginia Tech will be a NCAA Tournament team and there hasn't been for weeks. There's one major change this year with the metrics to determine this year's NCAA Tournament field and seedings as the RPI is gone and the NET is here. You've probably heard a lot about the NET which has put value upon efficiency and margin of victory. That emphasis on not only who you play but how well you play against who you play has benefited the Hokies. Even Buzz Williams has talked about adjusting his strategy at the end of losses calling timeouts to get margins under 10 before the finish with the margin of victory stat going up to 10-point margins. Those calls probably haven't made much of a difference, but it shows how the Hokies know the opportunity that the NET provides. While this Virginia Tech team would likely be in the 20s in the old RPI due to their weak non-conference strength of schedule, the NET sees the Hokies' dominance in non-conference play along with their strong ACC play and is rewarding Virginia Tech, ranking the Hokies 11th in the latest NET. Now it's unknown how much the committee will rely on the NET but our early indication based on the early top 16 release suggested that they'll rely on it a decent amount. Despite the fact that the Hokies were in the top 16 of the NET and weren't included in the committee's first 16, most of the committee's early top 16 teams were among the top 16 teams in the NET. While the NET doesn't appear to be a final deciding factor, it is having a noticeable impact that could become more significant with comparing final resumes. Overall, one of the strongest parts about Virginia Tech's resume is their standing in the metrics as shown below. Obviously, if seeding was based on metrics alone, Virginia Tech would be a top 3 seed with a chance to make a late run at a 2 seed with a strong finish. Despite that not being the case, the metrics are a valuable evaluation tool for the committee and a re a big reason why Virginia Tech has a legitimate shot at a 3 or 4 seed especially if they beat Florida State Tuesday. Even the one non-predictive metric, Strength of Record, now has Virginia Tech among the top 12, another great sign that VT not only is headed towards a top 4 seed, but may slide in higher than the fourth seed line. The metrics are the strength of Virginia Tech's resume, but the Hokies also have the major wins and 0 bad losses to be high on the list. Here's a look at some of the other important evaluating metrics thanks to Seed Madness.
  • Quadrant 1: 4-6
  • Quadrant 2: 6-0
  • Quadrant 3: 4-0
  • Quadrant 4: 8-0
  • Overall SOS: 58
  • Non-Conference SOS: 220
The first thing that may stand out is the fact that Virginia Tech doesn't have a single loss outside the first quadrant. That may seem like a surprise but the NET, despite their 12-16 record, is a big fan of Penn State ranking them 50th, basically securing that loss in Quadrant 1. The one loss that seems most at risk of falling to quadrant 2 is Virginia Tech's home loss to Louisville especially with the Cardinals recent struggles that has them down to 25th in the NET. Now losing to Louisville is obviously better but remember that quadrant 1 only includes games against top 30 NET teams if played at home, top 50 teams if a neutral site, and top 75 teams if played on the road. That's why the Louisville loss is the one to watch for the Hokies' hopes of maintaining a perfect record outside of quadrant 1. Virginia Tech is also one of teams to have 0 losses outside of quadrant 1 with the other teams being Virginia, Gonzaga, North Carolina, Tennessee, Michigan, Houston, Texas Tech, Iowa, and Wofford. Most of those teams are projected top 3-4 seeds while Wofford has basically guaranteed a spot regardless of their performance in the Southern Conference tournament and Iowa is the only team lower on the seeding list from a power conference. The Hokies' win against Duke is unsurprisingly valuable as the one issue for the Hokies was the lack of an elite conference win to go alongside their massive win over Purdue. Signature wins matter and while the wins over Washington and at NC State were good supplemental victories, VT needed another big signature victory to go alongside their win over Purdue and got that. That's why VT has a much better chance now to get a top 4 seed. While Virginia Tech can secure a double bye with a win over Florida State, a win would be more valuable for NCAA Tournament seeding. Taking down the Seminoles in Tallahassee would give VT a fifth quadrant 1 victory and position themselves well to be well-rested before taking on a team playing back-to-back days in the ACC Tournament with the chance to get a sixth quadrant 1 victory. That's how you build a resume that gives you a top 4 seed. If VT can take down Florida State Tuesday, I have a hard time seeing the Hokies not end up as a top 4 seed. Of course, that will be a significant challenge against a very good FSU team that could be a top 4 seed in their own right, but the opportunity is there for them to pull it off. There are some weaknesses with this resume starting with that fact that they only have 4 quadrant 1 victories. According to Seed Madness, only Houston, Nevada, Buffalo, and Auburn have fewer quadrant 1 victories among teams that are projected top 6 seeds with Auburn being the only team from one of the 6 traditional high major conferences (though this would probably be a good year to swap the AAC and Pac-12 in that category). Secondly, Virginia Tech 220th ranked non-conference strength of schedule continues to be a nuisance though at least it's not as bad as KenPom ranking it 331st. Regardless, this year's non-conference strength of schedule was a slight improvement benefiting not only from big games against Purdue and Washington but also a pair of solid wins against Northeastern and Ball State at the Charleston Classic, both of whom are in the top 125 of the NET. The home non-conference slate needs to get better, but this has at least been a slight improvement in the metric. Now time to talk about seeding. Here's where the latest projections have the Hokies. Now there may be some unfamiliar with some of these brackets. First, Bracket Matrix is a collection of over 100 bracket projections, giving us a good average of where a whole lot of people think Virginia Tech will be seeded. You've probably seen us use Seed Madness already, one of my favorite bracket stops along with T-Rank, a metric based projection from one of the best metrics not included on the resume. Back to the projections, a majority of our brackets have Virginia Tech as a 4 seed along with Bracket Matrix having Virginia Tech (and Florida State) just ahead of Wisconsin for the last two 4 seeds at the moment. The difference between a 4 or 5 seed may not seem like a lot but in terms of the process of bracketing, it could prove quite significant. If Virginia Tech ends up on the 3 or 4 seed line, that would mean that the committee would be required to put the Hokies in a region that does not have an ACC team among the top 4 seeds. With Duke, Virginia, and UNC all in the hunt for a #1 seed, Virginia Tech will have to be seeded to avoid one of those teams. With two ACC teams on the 1 seed line being very likely, it will very likely come down to what regions are not taken by 1 seed ACC teams. Right now, that means the Hokies are likely to end up in either the West (Anaheim) or Midwest (Kansas City) with Gonzaga basically having a 1 seed locked up and being certain to be sent to the West. Most projections that have the Hokies as a 4 seed also have Virginia Tech heading to the West Region for the NCAA Tournament. No if there are 5 ACC teams that earn top 4 seeds, something that Bracket Matrix currently projects with the Hokies and Seminoles, there will have to be 2 ACC teams in one region with the committee likely to put one of those potential 4 seeds with a likely 2 seed North Carolina. Of course, those conference limitations are thrown out if Virginia Tech ends up outside the top 4 teams with multiple brackets projecting Virginia Tech as a 5 seed in the East Region in Washington D.C. Given those brackets, it would open up the possibility for a Virginia Tech-UVA Sweet 16 matchup that would be clearly the biggest game this rivalry has ever seen. For a potential subregional, Virginia Tech is unlikely to be playing anywhere close to Blacksburg unless something crazy happens the next couple weeks. San Jose is looking like a possibility if Virginia Tech ends up as one of the last two 4 seeds while Hartford is another possibility if VT can get up to around 13 or 14 on the S-Curve. Part of the reason that Hartford is a serious possibility if VT gets on the 4 line is the fact that Salt Lake City and San Jose are preferable for many of the Big 12 teams that are populating the 10-16 range on the S-Curve. Those same potential subregionals apply if VT is a 5 seed though there is a little more instability along with VT not having some sort of possible control of their destination for the opening 2 rounds. For the first time in a long time, Virginia Tech has had no worries for weeks about whether they would make the NCAA Tournament with the biggest conversation surrounding whether the Hokies will be a top 4 seed or not.

Photo Credit: Bobby Murray

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