Just three days removed from a thorough beating in Chapel Hill, Sunday night's tussle with Boston College figured to present the Hokies with a chance to flip the script. The Eagles arrived in Blacksburg yet to register a true road victory, their resume sprinkled with losses to programs a typical college basketball fan would struggle to locate on a map.
And true to form, the Hokies jumped on Boston College almost immediately, converting on 10 of their first 11 from the field to build out a commanding 18-point lead midway through the first half. In the 24-by-7 pressure cooker known as the ACC, the Hokies were finally bound for an effortless win.
Enter Jordan Chatman, a 6'5" Washington native averaging just seven points per game coming off the bench for Jim Christian's Eagles squad.
Chatman's career high? 16, coincidentally tallied against Virginia just two weeks back in Chestnut Hill. Suffice it to say that particular record no longer holds.
Chatman pillaged the Hokies to the tune of nine three-pointers — six in the first half alone — almost single-handedly keeping the Eagles within striking distance while Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson worked through some early-game rust. But despite an often porous zone defense that frequently lended itself to open shooters, the Hokies managed to hold off Boston College's furious second-half comeback, escaping with a far from perfect 85-79 victory.
Seth Allen led the way for Tech, an efficient 18-point performance once again showcasing an increasingly poised veteran running the show for the Hokies. Zach LeDay wasn't far behind with 17 of his own, eclipsing the 10-point mark for a sixteenth consecutive game. And with freshman Khadim Sy's minutes and productivity seemingly dwindling as conference play develops, LeDay continued to provide the sole interior presence for the Hokies, battling Boston College's Mo Jeffers for much of the evening.
While Chatman stole the headlines with his torrid three-point shooting, Justin Bibbs held his own personal shooting clinic, converting on four of five from behind the arc to keep the Hokies afloat as Boston College threatened down the stretch.
The Eagles never led — although they did pull within one after a five-point flurry from Bowman midway through the second half — but Chatman's historic night came frighteningly close to shocking a home-standing Hokies team. But the Hokies never panicked down the stretch, answering every Boston College punch with a counter of their own to inch back above .500 in ACC play.
A Few Additional Thoughts
Why Zone BC? The Hokies played a mish-mash of different zone defenses against the Eagles, rarely switching into man against a 9-13 Boston College team. I'll be honest: this one surprised me.
Look, it's clear the Hokies are vastly undersized — that was never more on display than against North Carolina — but Boston College should be a team you're confident in matching up with. Without digging too far into the rabbit hole, let's just say zoning this team doesn't exactly inspire confidence, not when the program's aspirations are to play meaningful basketball in March for the first time in a decade. At some point, you either need to a) be tough enough to match up and get stops or b) hide your deficiencies with junk defenses. Right now, the Hokies aren't doing either. Their zone isn't active nor fluid enough to confuse opponents or force turnovers, and Buzz clearly seems hesitant to match up against ACC teams.
ACC Outlook At 5-4 in conference play, the Hokies still appear well-positioned to craft a tournament-ready resume come March. Given the pedigree and competitiveness of the ACC this year, conventional wisdom suggests any team that finishes at 9-9 or above figures to end up on the right side of the bubble (assuming a halfway decent non-conference schedule). With two matchups against Virginia and a midweek contest with Miami up next, let's say the Hokies go 1-2 in their next three, placing them at 6-6. That leaves Pittsburgh, Clemson, Boston College and Wake Forest on the schedule, four winnable games that could lift the Hokies into nine or ten win territory. Throw in a late-February matchup with Miami in Cassell that the Hokies could be favored in, and it's not hard to see why the pundits have the Hokies firmly in the NCAA Tournament right now. Their play of late hasn't been overly impressive, and Buzz and his staff certainly have plenty of questions to answer on the defensive end of the floor, but it's impossible to ignore the momentum building as the wins continue to accumulate in Blacksburg.