Virginia Tech Basketball: Time to start worrying?

virginia tech basketballIt’s been a while, but Virginia Tech basketball fans know, from past experience, not to take NCAA Tournament bids for granted.

It might be time to start worrying about 2019.

With four regular-season games left, the Hokies are at 20 wins, and a 9-5 record in the ACC. The NET ranking is solid: 16.

The quality win-loss metric, according to ESPN, is just OK: 4-5.

Right now, at worst, you have to think, solid five seed.

But: look at what Tech has coming up.

At Notre Dame, Duke and FSU at home, finish up the regular season at Miami.

The optimistic look at that is, OK, put Notre Dame and Miami in the win column, split Duke and FSU, and we can be a four, maybe even a three.

Which, fine. I’m optimistic, mostly, generally.

The flip side: Notre Dame just played well at Virginia, Duke is, Duke, Florida State is maybe the hottest team in the ACC right now, Miami has a recent win over Clemson and tough road losses at UVA and UNC.

I’m not saying Tech loses all four, at all, but all four present challenges, even if you have Justin Robinson, and it’s looking like you’re not going to have Justin Robinson.

Tech, like everybody else in college basketball these days, has been tight-lipped on Robinson’s status, so we have no real idea if or when he might be back, but the trickle of information coming out seems to suggest that the goal is to have him back by the ACC Tournament.

OK, so, what does that mean in the here and now?

Tech has played admirably in his absence, going 3-3, beating NC State and Pitt on the road, playing Louisville and Virginia tough in losses at home.

I think the Hokies are going to have to work their asses off to finish out the regular season with a 2-2 split.

Last night, Buzz Williams went all in trying to pull the upset of #3 UVA, and went with four starters – Kerry Blackshear, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Ahmed Hill and Ty Outlaw – for all 40 minutes.

Over the last six, Blackshear is averaging 35.3 minutes per game, with Alexander-Walker at 34.8, Hill at 37.3 and Outlaw at an even 35.

That’s a lot of wear and tear, with more to come, with the late-season push on the horizon.

Williams is going to need to ride these guys even more to fight off what could feel like a must-win ACC Tournament game on a Wednesday in Charlotte.

Tech can’t afford to lose three of four to close out the regular season, then go one-and-done in Charlotte, and sit there the rest of the week leading up to Selection Sunday with a 4-7 finish, and possible questions about the availability of its point guard.

Notre Dame this weekend is feeling like a must-win game to me.

Column by Chris Graham

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