Duke’s NBA kids wanted nothing to do with Mike Young’s Wofford kids
Mike Krzyzewski’s team of future NBA role players lost 82-67 to Mike Young’s Wofford kids who will never live down that they beat Duke in the ACC Tournament championship game.
I just did a podcast with Wally Walker, who averaged 7.0 points per game in nine NBA seasons, because he led his 1976 Virginia team to an ACC Tournament championship.
Hunter Cattoor, Keve Aluma, Storm Murphy, the rest, will be doing whatever there is in 2068 to replace podcasts to talk about tonight to future generations.
And credit to them, after starting 2-7 in the ACC – after some really smart basketball people saying back in the preseason that the Hokies could have enough to win the ACC.
“I think they’re the team they thought they were going to be at the beginning of the year,” Krzyzewski said. “They hung in there, and they probably got tougher, built more character, and became so close, and it shows up in these last 15 games or so that they’ve played.”
Tech is on a 13-2 run since that 2-7 start in ACC play, and, apologies to Joe Lunardi, the ESPN bracketologist, who had the Hokies on the outside looking in Saturday morning, but Joe Lunardi can go to hell.
“It means everything,” Aluma said, and you know what he was referring to.
This is Virginia Tech’s first ACC basketball championship.
Again, this team was 2-7 in the ACC, like, a month ago.
“I don’t think a lot of people thought we would do this or even end up with a positive record. I mean, it means everything. I think it just shows that this team was resilient and that we fight,” Aluma said.
“Yeah, I think as we’re 2-7 and losing games we’re not expecting to lose, that weight, that burden, that doubt creeps in, and that’s tough. It’s tough to have that,” said Storm Murphy, who, like Aluma, followed coach Mike Young from Wofford, in the Southern Conference, to Virginia Tech and the ACC.
That group won the SoCon in 2019 on its way to a 30-5 finish and a memorable second-round NCAA Tournament loss to Kentucky.
Cattoor, who had 31 points Saturday night, was on his way to Wofford at that point.
“It’s crazy. I went and watched them play at the first round NCAA tournament when you-all played Seton Hall. I was preparing to go to Wofford since September when I committed,” Cattoor said. “So just to have this moment right now, it speaks about Coach Young and how he can coach. And just these players, Keve and Storm, that can play at any level. Whenever people doubted them and said they couldn’t do it throughout the whole season, we just proved it all tonight.”
A bunch of kids recruited to win the SoCon beating a bunch of Duke one-and-dones on their way to being NBA rotation players is a sign that college basketball is still OK.
Even Coach K, who has won five national championships, but just one in the one-and-done era, way back in 2015, can appreciate that.
“His teams play hard, together,” Krzyzewski said in praise of Young. “They don’t make many mistakes, and they don’t beat themselves. Like any coach, the older the team you have, the more you’ve had a chance to develop those habits. Getting Aluma and Murphy from his old school was good recruiting, and he’s one of the better coaches.
“They’re a together group. They have great poise, and they’re very difficult to beat, and we knew that coming in. We were ready to play. We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be, but obviously they were the better team. They’re a really good team. This isn’t like some happenstance or whatever. They’re an excellent basketball team,” Krzyzewski said.
I referenced Wally Walker and Virginia’s 1976 ACC Tournament run above. Folks in Southwest Virginia will remember this one the way Virginia fans remember that one.
“I mean, it’s really a special thing for our basketball team. This is a special thing for Blacksburg; for Southwest Virginia ,where I’m from, where I grew up, for the state of Virginia; for our unbelievable Hokie fan base. They’ll always remember this, this team, and what they’ve accomplished,” said Young, a native of nearby Radford, for whom Virginia Tech was always his dream job.
“I’ll tell you something else. Holy cow, I don’t watch the prognosticators, bracketologists. I’m thinking we get to the ACC final, maybe we lose this game, holy cow, we’ve got to be in the tournament, aren’t we? We are now, so to heck with that stuff. Our name will be called tomorrow, and we’ll be excited wherever we may go,” Young said.
A special night for Hokie Nation, indeed.
“Hope I don’t fall. True. True. I had our strength coach hold the ladder,” Young said, in response to a reporter’s question on his thoughts as he climbed the ladder to cut down the nets. “You guys got a better answer than that.”
“First thing that went through my mind, champs,” Aluma said.
“Yeah, I think we talked about it as a team, that now it’s forever,” Murphy said. “Like it’s etched, it’s engrained, that we’re forever champions. That’s just something to be proud of, and it’s really special and no one will be able to take that away. I think that was one of the first things that popped in my head.”
Story by Chris Graham