Photo Credit: Liam Sment
With a bevy of road games plus a home game against N.C. State, Virginia Tech has received plenty of chances for Quadrant 1 and 2 victories to start 2020. During that stretch, the Hokies have taken advantage adding depth to their resume with multiple Quadrant 2 victories, mostly away from Cassell Coliseum, but headlined by a win over fellow bubble team N.C. State.
Because of that, the Hokies are almost a consensus NCAA Tournament pick with the most high profile bracket projections at CBS Sports and ESPN including the Hokies with the aggregate Bracket Matrix having Tech in the field and on the rise.
Now, Virginia Tech enters a three-game stretch with home games against Syracuse and North Carolina followed by a road game in Boston College. In most years, that would be a stretch with at least one of those games counting in Quadrant 1 and the others in Quadrant 2.
This year, all three games are currently Quadrant 3 games, making this the most dangerous stretch of the season to date especially since Virginia Tech's resume lacks a bad loss currently.
Now there is a chance that Syracuse could jump into the top 75, making this game a Quadrant 2 contest for Tech and their road victory a Quadrant 1 win, but a home game against North Carolina and road trip against Boston College seemed destined to stay in Quadrant 3.
While they may be Quadrant 3 games, there are also plenty of challenges for the Hokies given what each opponent brings to the table.
It starts with a Syracuse team that the Hokies needed about 30 minutes to figure out how to break down the zone before breaking through with a good mix of Jalen Cone from deep and an offense that found it's way to find space inside 15 feet to collapse the zone. The Orange have started to find their rhythm recently including a road victory at Virginia that has Syracuse starting to climb their way back up the ACC.
In terms of current play, Syracuse is the most dangerous opponent for the Hokies though playing at home should definitely help Tech in this game. Syracuse's offensive efficiency also ranks among the top 40 in KenPom, another challenge for Tech if their offense can't find any sort of rhythm against the Syracuse zone.
Next is North Carolina. Now in most years, this would be a marquee game but this year, it's a must win game for Tech to avoid what could be a bad loss.
North Carolina has struggled without a true point guard due to the losses of Cole Anthony and Anthony Harris. However, UNC is loaded with size via their two star big men in Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot who are both averaging over 10 points and 7 rebounds per game while shooting over 48% from the field. UNC's size and rebounding advantages make this a trickier matchup for Virginia Tech than many others in the ACC with this being the most dangerous of the trio, even with UNC being down.
Of course, the x-factor could be the return of Cole Anthony with rumors that he may be close to a return though at this point, it doesn't appear that Anthony will return in time for next week's game.
Lastly, Virginia Tech heads on the road to Boston College, the lowest-ranked ACC team in the NET as the Eagles are outside the top 160 currently. The Eagles may be only 9-8, but they are 3-3 in ACC play with wins at home against Virginia and on the road at Notre Dame. Part of the challenge of playing at Boston College can be what feels like a library of an environment. The Hokies do have the benefit though of having played in another calm environment at Wake Forest and playing well.
There's no doubt that Virginia Tech should be favored in all three of these games based on what we've seen to date and what we've seen recently. However, this is still a team with 6 freshmen and 0 seniors in their regular nine-man rotation. Despite that, the Hokies have shown plenty of maturity, but that maturity will continue to be tested especially with the inevitable close games that will include runs for their opponents that will test their focus.
The next three games will be a dangerous stretch for Virginia Tech as they look to avoid suffering not only their first bad loss, but their first loss outside Quadrant 1. If they can do that, Virginia Tech will be giving their NCAA Tournament resume another major boost without even picking up a Quadrant 1 victory.