If you talk to people who follow Virginia Tech basketball, one of the big points of excitement in the early weeks of the season — especially after the Charleston Classic championship won over Purdue — was the possibility that the Hokies could earn a double-bye in the ACC Tournament.
Think about that: The ACC Tournament is a five-day event. If we’re being honest now that the Big East Tournament no longer has Syracuse, Connecticut or Louisville, the ACC Tournament stands alone as the most cherished and historically resonant conference tournament in college basketball.
Getting a double-bye in this event means you stand alongside North Carolina and Duke. These days, it means you also share the stage with Virginia. The larger point is not hard to grasp: When you’re getting double-byes into the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament, your program owns a certain degree of stature. You are either acting like a blue-blood or you have moved up in the world (if not both).
It’s a big deal and a status symbol in college basketball. This is a very real sign of how much the Virginia Tech program has evolved under Buzz Williams.
Monday night, the Hokies lost to Louisville and, in the process, fell out of the No. 4 seed position which accompanies a double-bye. They can still get back that spot — Louisville has a very rough schedule coming up — but their position is more tenuous.
This might be disappointing or concerning in a very immediate context (obviously, getting Justin Robinson healthy is the biggest worry for the Hokies), but Virginia Tech fans need to pause for a moment and realize how far their program has come.
Virginia Tech battled Louisville — a member of college basketball royalty — for 40 minutes on Monday despite being shorthanded and playing on relatively limited rest. Casual fans will see a home-court loss and a drop in the standings. Anyone who is paying closer attention will see that a longtime college basketball outsider — a member of the peasant class — is fighting with the elites for top-tier spots in the most famous conference tournament of all.
Victories make it easy to see what a program has gained. Losses can often obscure a program’s progress.
Make no mistake: Even in defeat, one needs to be able to see how great a distance Virginia Tech has traveled. This loss to Louisville magnified the Hokies’ improvements instead of making their season seem smaller.
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