On paper, it was the difference between a 25-5 regular season and a still-respectable 24-6—and should the Miami Hurricanes get on a roll in Washington D.C. next week, an ACC Championship could be in the cards. Same to be said for two-seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
In reality, the Canes lost a share of the ACC regular season crown, getting worked by an average Virginia Tech squad—while season-long road struggles and inconsistency reared its ugly head again.
In reality, the magnitude of a loss like this won’t be evident until this season is in the books. Should Miami get road tough in the coming weeks; both for the conference tournament and the Big Dance—a loss like this is a blip on the radar.
Conversely, if find themselves in position like this again in March, it could cost them everything they’ve worked so hard for this season.
It’s easy to downplay Miami’s 77-62 in Blacksburg by citing some quality play the past three times the Canes hit the hardwood; upsetting No. 3 Virginia and rallying late against No. 11 Louisville before jumping all over Notre Dame in South Bend mid-week.
That narrative would hold water had Miami closed out Saturday against Virginia Tech. It even would’ve worked had the Canes slipped up against higher-ranked opponents in the Cavaliers or Cardinals; two forgivable would-be losses.
What doesn’t add up; no-showing when the stakes are raised and another game where Miami came out flat; reminiscent of the loss at North Carolina weeks back, as well as road games at North Carolina State and Clemson earlier in the year.
The Canes’ intensity is often unmatched at home, but on the road this team seems to lack that “it” factor (sans a quick start against the Irish on Wednesday night.)
Equally as concerning; post-game chatter from a Hokies squad with 13 losses essentially explaining that their blueprint was that of North Carolina’s—attacking Miami’s perceived achilles heel.
“We saw how Carolina just never let up,” Virginia Tech forward Justin Bibbs said. “They kept punching them in the mouth. We wanted to do what they did. They (the Hurricanes) were in the game mostly the whole game against us. We just had to keep throwing blows at them and keep hitting them and that’s what we did.”
Bibbs backed up his big talk with a 19-point performance—hitting 7-of-10 field goals and going 5-of-6 from beyond the arc. Hokies guard forward Zach LeDay followed with 16 points, while guard Justin Robinsondropped 15; including 4-of-5 from the free throw line.
Both Miami and Virginia Tech came out cold; trading missed shots until the 18:56 mark when Davon Reeddropped a three-pointer to get things started. From there, a box score that had a some fouls, turnovers and missed jumpers for the Canes, while the Hokies pushed their lead to nine points with just over eight minutes remaining in the half.
Turnovers, fouls, missed jumpers and wasted free throw attempts continues to plague Miami, while Virginia Tech pushed their lead to 12 at the 5:22 mark.
The teams went into intermission with the Hokies leading, 32-21; the Canes posting some ugly first half numbers—8-of-23 shooting and an ice-cold 1-of-10 from beyond-the-arc. Meanwhile, Virginia tech what 48.1% (13-of-27) and hit 3-of-8 three-pointers.
The second half proved no better as the Hokies outscored the Canes, 45-41 en route to the 15-point victory. Miami’s shooting percentage improved slightly; 17-of-35 shooting, 3-of-14 from three-point range and 4-of-5 from the free throw line—but the defense was no match for a confident, upset-minded Virginia Tech squad.
Up 13 early in the second half, the Hokies were on their heels as the Canes tore off a 10-2 and seemed poised to get right back in the game—a three-pointer by Angel Rodriguez serving as a exclamation point at the 14:29 mark. Unfazed, the Hokies answered with a 10-2 run of their own; including back-to-back three-pointers fromSeth Allen and LeDay.
Game. Set. Match. For Saturday afternoon, at least.
With North Carolina knocking off Duke in Durham, the Tar Heels earned the top-seed in next week’s ACC Tournament, while the winner of Virginia and Louisville will earn the two-seed and Miami is looking at the third spot.
End of the world? Hardly; but the road struggles, mental lapses and inconsistent play late season when entering One-and-Done-Ville are concerning. This is Miami’s best team since the 2012-2013 squad reached the Sweet16 as a two-seed and went ice cold against third-seeded Marquette; falling 71-61 after a 16-point first half.
There’s no margin for error in the post-season as this is the time of year where bad habits and negative traits are the difference between getting sent home early, or cutting down nets.
The Hokies took a page from the Tar Heels’ playbook; coming at the Canes hard and fast, clamping down with zone defense and hitting them in the mouth offensively—a recipe for double-digit disasters in Miami’s last two losses.
Rest assured ACC foes took notice; while future March Madness opponents will study game film from the Canes’ flops against North Carolina and Virginia Tech.
Cheers to an impressive 24-6 regular season—but it’s going to take some next-level focus, consistency and execution if Miami expects to make a deep post season run.
Performances like today’s in Blacksburg are dream killers.