The surface-level analysis of Monday night’s game between the Louisville Cardinals and the Virginia Tech Hokies was not — and is not — wrong.
Virginia Tech, playing again without Justin Robinson — just as it did on Saturday at North Carolina State — went with a six-man rotation. Moreover, the Hokies were using their short rotation in a Monday game following a Saturday game.
ACC teams don’t play Saturday-Monday sequences of games for a majority of their seasons, but the bigger names will have to go through at least one or two of them to give ESPN its ACC Monday inventory in the 7 Eastern slot. It was Virginia Tech’s rotten luck that a Saturday-Monday pair of games coincided with Robinson’s lack of availability. It would have been so much better for the Hokies if Robinson missed a home game against Georgia Tech (which comes on Wednesday, February 13 after a Saturday game against Clemson). The Hokies got the short end of the stick with the schedule on multiple levels.
Louisville took advantage of Virginia Tech’s limitations within the workings of the calendar.
Again, that analysis — while not identifying the only reason Louisville won — certainly figures into a part of the story on Monday in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech was shorthanded, and it figured that Louisville stood a good chance of winning. It did.
Let’s step back for a moment and marvel at what was just written: Louisville had a good chance to win at Virginia Tech. In the broader scope of college basketball history, nothing about that sentence is surprising, but within the context of this season alone, it is HUGELY surprising.
You saw Virginia Tech torch Purdue in November in Charleston. You saw the Hokies continue to improve under Buzz Williams. Louisville, meanwhile, might have hit a home run with Chris Mack, but even if you were supremely excited about the long-term future of the Cardinals under their new coach, you probably weren’t expecting THIS season to be such a success.
You DAMN sure didn’t expect Louisville to be 8-2 in the ACC through 10 league games, in position to get a double-bye in the ACC Tournament if it can maintain its current spot.
This reveals the unexpected twist in the story: Louisville IS a blue-blood program, and Virginia Tech has been one of the have-nots in college basketball over a longer period of time, but within the context of this season, it is AMAZING that Louisville matured and developed to the point where people (correctly!) said that the Cardinals were in good position to take advantage of Virginia Tech’s limitations on Monday.
Was this easy money from a betting perspective if you had Louisville? We can debate that all day.
What can’t be debated: Louisville had to rapidly evolve in order to merit such regained respect.
Home makeover shows have nothing on Chris Mack this season. This restoration project has occurred at warp speed.
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