From the sidelines
By Marty Gordon
Virginia Tech basketball coach Mike Young admits his team was in a dark place after going 2-6 in the team’s early Atlantic Coast Conference schedule. But just like the song “Enter Sandman” would be in reverse, the team rose out of the darkness to become this year’s tournament champ, punching their ticket for the NCAA dance.
The “shock in awe” Young-style rolled through two of the conference’s and country’s top teams in North Carolina and Duke. The Hokies were at a height disadvantage in almost every game, but a swarming defense and a rim-attacking offense changed all of that.
The Hokies have done it. Virginia Tech capped off a thrilling run in Brooklyn with an 82-67 win over top-seeded Duke to claim the 2022 ACC Tournament Championship. Young’s squad engineered a historic turnaround to clinch an automatic bid to the Big Dance that will go down as one of the most impressive runs in league history.
Young said after cutting the nets on Saturday that this was a special thing for Blacksburg, for Southwest Virginia, for the state of Virginia. “They’ll always remember this, this team,” the head coach said.
Television analyst and former Louisville star Luke Hancock said at the start of the season that Virginia Tech was a team that could make a run for the conference crown. Well, they did, and Hancock might look like a genius right about now.
Keva Aluma and Justin Mutts played key roles in getting this team to where they were Saturday night. But the biggest MVP was Hunter Cantoor, who lit it up from behind the arc. His defense also played a key role in helping the team to the championship belt. He was a rock star.
This team deserves the title and so much more. Young and his staff have stepped up to the plate and done a great job.
They did not gain much respect despite all this success. So they will have carry the term “underdog” into the Big Dance.
Now the Hokies will wait for the next chapter and the Final 64 tournament. Tech was named a No.-11 seed in the East Region Sunday evening and will face No. 6 Texas in Milwaukee on Friday.
The women’s basketball team is also headed to the NCAA championships. The Hokies (23-9, 13-5) will be the No. 5 seed in the Spokane region, playing 12th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast (29-2, 15-1 ASUN) on Friday, March 18, in College Park, Md.
Good luck to both squads as Virginia Tech has become known as a “basketball school.”