After a down year in league play, Virginia Tech carries some much-needed momentum into the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament as it aims for another stunning postseason run.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, gears up for one final ride with coach Mike Brey at the helm, looking to salvage a lean season and secure a second straight NCAA Tournament berth.
The 2022-23 campaign officially has reached do-or-die status for both programs as they square off Tuesday in the first round of the ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C.
The 11th-seeded Hokies (18-13, 8-12 ACC) throttled Florida State 82-60 in the regular-season finale on Saturday to notch consecutive wins for the first time since late January.
Sean Pedulla scored a career-high 25 points and hit six of Virginia Tech’s season-high-tying 16 3-pointers.
The Hokies have thrived when they’ve connected from distance. They’re 8-2 this season when making at least 10 3-pointers, led by Hunter Cattoor and his ACC-best 44.9 percent clip from behind the arc in league play.
The Hokies’ 3-point shooting will be crucial to replicate last season’s sparkling run through the league tournament in Brooklyn when they rattled off four wins in four days as the No. 7 seed to secure their fifth straight NCAA Tournament berth.
“The biggest thing I took away from last year, personally, just was focusing one game at a time and not worrying about anything else,” Pedulla said. “It’ll definitely be a long week … but our season kind of depends on it.”
The second win of Virginia Tech’s run last March was an 87-80 triumph over the Fighting Irish, who earned an at-large bid into the First Four last year.
This season, however, has been treacherous for Notre Dame (11-20, 3-17) and Brey, who will be stepping away from the program after the season.
The 14th-seeded Fighting Irish have lost eight of their past nine, including an 87-64 setback at Clemson on Saturday that sealed a winless campaign away from South Bend, Ind. (0-12).
Despite its record, Notre Dame has played plenty of competitive basketball this season. Eleven losses have been within single digits, including five one-possession defeats.
“Call me crazy, but I feel the same way about this group as I did … in June,” senior guard Cormac Ryan said. “I’m telling you, I wouldn’t want to play us in Greensboro.”
Virginia Tech won the first meeting this season 93-87 in South Bend on Feb. 11. Grant Basile scored 33 points for the Hokies and Nate Laszewski matched that number for the Irish.
Tuesday’s winner will face No. 6 seed North Carolina State in the second round on Wednesday.
–Field Level Media