What a crazy day of action we had yesterday in college hoops. The nation’s top team, the Duke Blue Devils, tasted defeat for just second time this year as the Orange of Syracuse when into Durham and knocked them off in an overtime thriller. The Pittsburgh Panthers dominated eleventh ranked Florida State, beating the Seminoles by thirteen points. Upset was the theme of the night as the Nebraska Cornhusker went on the road and beat the Indiana Hoosiers as well. Three ranked teams, all three picking up big losses in conference play. And it was almost four as the Kansas Jayhawks barely held off the Texas Longhorns at the buzzer, holding on for an 80-78 victory.
Conference play is always the biggest test for any team, and this is where the truly elite teams separate themselves from the rest of the pack. We saw yesterday that some of these teams we have been assuming will be top four seeds come March might not be as good as we thought they were. Today we will look at two more teams that most assume are elite when the Virginia Cavaliers host the Virginia Tech Hokies in ACC league play.
The eyes of the college basketball world are on Virginia tonight as the state’s two best basketball team’s matchup in what should be a thriller. For Virginia, the Cavaliers are undefeated at 15-0 on the season, and with Duke’s loss yesterday, they have moved to the top of kenpom’s rankings. The Cavaliers famously lost last year in the first round of the NCAA tournament as the number one overall seed, but they seem to be showing no ill effects of that historic loss this year, as they just might be the best team in the country.
Virginia Tech is playing the little brother role in the Old Dominion State this season but make no mistake this team is a very good one. The Hokies are 14-1 on the year and ranked in the top ten in the AP Poll. Their one loss came back in November at Penn State, but since then have started out ACC play 3-0. The Cavaliers are -7.5-point home favorites. The over-under game total is set at 120.5-points. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:00 PM PST from Jones Arena in Charlottesville.
Many have wondered just how good this Virginia team is this season. They returned most of the team that went 30-2 last season and were the number one overall seed in the NCAA tournament. We all know how well that worked out for them in the Big Dance, but I don’t think that discounts just how good that team was. But when you look at the 30-2 record, guess who one of those losses was to? You guessed it right, the Virginia Tech Hokies, at home in Charlottesville.
That loss to Tech was the last time the Cavs lost a regular season game. And next up after this one, the Cavs play the Duke Blue Devils and then the North Carolina Tar Heels. So, if you have any questions to just how good this team actually is, you are about to find out. If the Cavs run through this stretch undefeated, they will very likely be the unanimous number one team in America. If they lose all three, they probably won’t even be in the top twenty-five. It is go time for Virginia to say the least.
The Hokies of Virginia Tech have a couple of nice wins on the year, but this will be an enormous step up in competition for them. Wins over Washington, Purdue, and Notre Dame will look decent at the end of the season, but they have played nobody with the talent like this Virginia team. But the eye test tells us this team is the real deal, despite their lack of signature wins.
Tech is led by a trio of stars in Neil Alexander-Walker, Kerry Blackshear Jr, and Justin Robinson. Blackshear and Robinson are both upperclassmen that are experienced and talented. And Alexander-Walker has really exploded onto the scene here in his sophomore year as he is leading the team with eighteen points a game and adds in four rebounds and four assists as well. If Zion Williamson of Duke wasn’t running away with the ACC player of the year award, we would hear a lot about Alexander-Walker being the best player in the ACC.
What a game we have tonight! A matchup of in-state rivals both ranked in the top ten. This should be a great game between two very good teams. And that is why I was shocked to see the number come out as such a high one. This number opened with the Cavs as -8.5-point home favorites. That felt much too high, and I jumped all over the Hokies. The rest of the sharp overnight action came in on the Hokies as well, and this number has shifted to Virginia -7.5-points.
While I hate getting the worse number, I still think the Hokies are the side to be on. This is a classic case of right side, wrong number. And the line may continue to move towards Virginia Tech, as many see this game as a one or two possession contest. So, if you like a play on Virginia Tech, I suggest making it now, before the number moves on you even more. Give me the Virginia Tech Hokies and the +7.5-points tonight in Charlottesville!